The Help Kicks up a Firestorm

Probably those who greenlit The Help never imagined it would be birthed into a racially contentious time in our history.  It’s 2011 and we have our nation’s first black president – the shit has mostly hit the fan, but let’s face it – race relations have never entirely cooled down, not when Rodney King was beaten up, not when OJ was set free, not during Hurricane Katrina’s wrath, not now, when Obama and his very black family live in the very White House.  We can all pretend like it isn’t still a controversial topic,  and that we’ve moved beyond racism and all of that – but we haven’t.  The only thing, in fact, that keeps it from stirring up is the contrived political correctness we all try to adhere to.

The other thing that can sometimes help is talking about it in a realistic way.  One important voice missing in this whole debate around The Help is Oprah Winfrey.  Oprah would use her show, perhaps, to address some of these issues — her show was kind of like a town hall meeting for women (the main audience for the film) and the African American community.  But there is no Oprah so now people are taking sides. But I wondered, though, how this ends up helping or hurting people like Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, two strong black performances in an atmosphere that discourages them. Will they get flushed down the toilet with the rest of the shitstorm? Hm.

Davis, in particular, mostly carries the film (except when we have to endure the white people’s insignificant story — waaaaa, they took away my nanny, waaaa) is hurt, I think, by the firestorm aimed at the film.

I find myself of two minds (who cares what I think). On the one hand, I see the wrong in the film.  I see how embarrassing some of the scenes are – and the enduring bad taste left by a story that celebrates a white character who makes her career (goes to New York to become a famous writer) on the backs of black maids who have to stick it out in Jackson, MS.  Sure, they try to deal with this head on in the film by having Emma Stone say “I can’t just leave you here.”  She says this to her mother, who is dying, and to the two maids who risked their jobs, and even their lives, to have their stories told.  In fact, they handled this threat in the film by making it as scary and dangerous as riding the riverboat through the Pirates of the Caribbean.  It never feels real – it always feels like it’s been slathered with a layer of Gaussian blur.

But I also see that this is a rare opportunity for a mainstream Hollywood film to represent strong female characters, two of them black.  To shut it down or protest its existence, doesn’t that make it all the more difficult for black actresses to work at all?  If it isn’t exactly to our liking, politically, must it get buried?

I’m just wondering is all.

Now, on to the firestorm.  The Association of Black Women Historians had this to say in a statement released to the press to help explain their position:

On behalf of the Association of Black Women Historians (ABWH), this statement provides historical context to address widespread stereotyping presented in both the film and novel version ofTheHelp. The book has sold over three million copies,and heavy promotion of the movie will ensure its success at the box office. Despite efforts to market the book and the film as a progressive story of triumph over racial injustice, The Help distorts, ignores, and trivializes the experiences of black domestic workers. We are specifically concerned about the representations of black life and the lack of attention given to sexual harassment and civil rights activism.

During the 1960s, the era covered in The Help, legal segregation and economic inequalities limited black women’s employment opportunities. Up to 90 per cent of working black women in the South labored as domestic servants in white homes. The Help’s representation of these women is a disappointing resurrection of Mammy — a mythical stereotype of black women who were compelled, either by slavery or segregation, to serve white families. Portrayed as asexual, loyal, and contented caretakers of whites, the caricature of Mammy allowed mainstream America to ignore the systemic racism that bound black women to back-breaking, low paying jobs where employers routinely exploited them. The popularity of this most recent iteration is troubling because it reveals a contemporary nostalgia for the days when a black woman could only hope to clean the White House rather than reside in it.

Both versions of The Help also misrepresent African American speech and culture. Set in the South, the appropriate regional accent gives way to a child-like, over-exaggerated “black” dialect. In the film, for example, the primary character, Aibileen, reassures a young white child that, “You is smat, you is kind, you is important.” In the book, black women refer to the Lord as the “Law,” an irreverent depiction of black vernacular. For centuries, black women and men have drawn strength from their community institutions. The black family, in particular provided support and the validation of personhood necessary to stand against adversity. We do not recognize the black community described in The Help where most of the black male characters are depicted as drunkards, abusive, or absent. Such distorted images are misleading and do not represent the historical realities of black masculinity and manhood.

Furthermore, African American domestic workers often suffered sexual harassment as well as physical and verbal abuse in the homes of white employers. For example, a recently discovered letter written by Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks indicates that she, like many black domestic workers, lived under the threat and sometimes reality of sexual assault. The film, on the other hand, makes light of black women’s fears and vulnerabilities turning them into moments of comic relief.

Even they too must acknowledge that this does hurt the Oscar chances of Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer:

We respect the stellar performances of the African American actresses in this film. Indeed, this statement is in no way a criticism of their talent. It is, however, an attempt to provide context for this popular rendition of black life in the Jim Crow South. In the end, The Help is not a story about the millions of hardworking and dignified black women who labored in white homes to support their families and communities. Rather, it is the coming-of-age story of a white protagonist, who uses myths about the lives of black women to make sense of her own. The Association of Black Women Historians finds it unacceptable for either this book or this film to strip black women’s lives of historical accuracy for the sake of entertainment.

And this video:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Indiewire’s ReelPolitik also goes after the film, and those who support it — even if just for the performances:

In his 1965 essay, “White Man’s Guilt,” James Baldwin writes about America’s racism: “One wishes that Americans, white Americans, would read, for their own sakes, this record, and stop defending themselves against it. Only then will they be enabled to change their lives. The fact that Americans, white Americans, have not yet been able to do this- to face their history, to change their lives-hideously menaces this country. Indeed, it menaces the entire world.”

Forty-six years later, it seems, the American white establishment still can’t seem to understand that they are responsible for racial discrimination and subjugation, and not, as “The Help” would have it, responsible for breaking down those walls.

I also can’t help wonder what does it say about “The Help” that Ablene Cooper, an African American nanny and housekeeper who works for “The Help” author Kathryn Stockett’s brother and sister-in-law, filed a lawsuit against Stockett, claiming that the central African American maid in the novel — a woman named Aibileen Clark and portrayed in the film by Viola Davis — was based largely on her likeness without her approval. A judge will decide on the case next week, as millions of Americans will fork over cash, enriching more white Americans. The exploitation continues.

I hope that Ablene Cooper reaps some of the profits from the film.

Again, it doesn’t matter what I think. I’m just a dumb white Oscar blogger who has no idea what it is like to live as an African American today, never mind in the 1960s in Mississippi. But I see the Oscar race not as a celebration, necessarily, of the best. It is partly that. But it is also a political race. Most of the time those who rewarded are white, and male. Movies with all black characters unless those characters are lampooned caricatures (Eddie Murphy, Tyler Perry) they don’t make money therefore they don’t drive the industry. If you think white actresses over 40 have a hard time getting work, just try imagining black actresses over 40.

Watching The Help I was able to put aside my disgust with the just plain dumb glossing over of what was taking place back then and was able to see the characters as realized by Davis and Spencer. Maybe that’s because most period films like that deal in falsehoods. The Bryce Dallas Howard character was a typical bitch (note how the men mostly get a pass – it is all of the evil women driving the racist attitudes). Jessica Chastain was a whore with a heart of gold – another stereotype. Even Emma Stone’s character was a cookie-cutter tomboy girlwriter. We’ve seen them all before. Maybe that cynicism made it easier for me to recognize how wonderful Davis and Spencer were in this film.

I hope the debate continues. Let’s hear it for people who get mad and stay mad. You never want anyone to shut up — but let’s also remember that when you’re talking about Oscars and performances it isn’t on Davis and Spencer’s back to solve the world’s problems with race. It isn’t on their back to scream at the filmmakers and the writer of the novel to make it a better story. They were required to deliver great performances. And they did that. Applauding them doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t talk about the things in the film that were offensive.

What do you all think, Oscarwatchers?

201 Comments on this Post

  1. i really dont’ have a stance either way. i’m usually just interested in the artistic quality of the film… but it is interesting that this same debate keeps coming up decade after decade. I remember a similar debate when richard attenbourough’s (sp) “cry freedom” came out in 87′. The film focused on Kevin Kline’s character and struggle more so than Denzel’s (who gave a fantastic oscar nominated supporting performance) and that was almost 25 years ago.

  2. i really dont’ have a stance either way. i’m usually just interested in the artistic quality of the film… but it is interesting that this same debate keeps coming up decade after decade. I remember a similar debate when richard attenbourough’s (sp) “cry freedom” came out in 87′. The film focused on Kevin Kline’s character and struggle more so than Denzel’s (who gave a fantastic oscar nominated supporting performance) and that was almost 25 years ago.

  3. Gentle Benj

    That’s the problem for me, Drake. It’s not that I want to pretend that race problems don’t exist–it’s just that, in the year 2011, I don’t have anything to say about it. What little I ever had to say, has been said hundreds of times over by myself and others.

    note how the men mostly get a pass – it is all of the evil women driving the racist attitudes

    But isn’t that a product of the fact that all of the major characters are women? You’re not going to get much of a male antagonist in a story that’s mostly populated and driven by female characters.

  4. Gentle Benj

    That’s the problem for me, Drake. It’s not that I want to pretend that race problems don’t exist–it’s just that, in the year 2011, I don’t have anything to say about it. What little I ever had to say, has been said hundreds of times over by myself and others.

    note how the men mostly get a pass – it is all of the evil women driving the racist attitudes

    But isn’t that a product of the fact that all of the major characters are women? You’re not going to get much of a male antagonist in a story that’s mostly populated and driven by female characters.

  5. helluvalife

    Seems like terrific sour grapes to me and selective criticism at best. Men, white or black, are given short shrift in the film. Viola seems single and Octavia has an abusive partner but where are the other bad portraits of black men. The white men don’t fare a whole lot better either – Skeeter’s boy friend boy is a bit of a wet noodle, although Celia’s hubby seems nice though. Also, the black maids are shown consistently being abused psychologically at the hands of their employers. Did The Association of Black Women actually see the film?

    There’s a firestorm a brewin all right and it’s the A+ Cinemascope score. Seems like audiences are loving it.

  6. helluvalife

    Seems like terrific sour grapes to me and selective criticism at best. Men, white or black, are given short shrift in the film. Viola seems single and Octavia has an abusive partner but where are the other bad portraits of black men. The white men don’t fare a whole lot better either – Skeeter’s boy friend boy is a bit of a wet noodle, although Celia’s hubby seems nice though. Also, the black maids are shown consistently being abused psychologically at the hands of their employers. Did The Association of Black Women actually see the film?

    There’s a firestorm a brewin all right and it’s the A+ Cinemascope score. Seems like audiences are loving it.

  7. vanessa

    Helluvalife are you serious about it being sour grapes? Lord the ignorance.

  8. vanessa

    Helluvalife are you serious about it being sour grapes? Lord the ignorance.

  9. helluvalife

    vanessa, have you seen the film? the article didn’t reflect the film I saw.

  10. helluvalife

    vanessa, have you seen the film? the article didn’t reflect the film I saw.

  11. vanessa

    Yes I did see the film and I agree with the article wholeheartedly. I think quite frankly, that ‘The Help’ is a film that is made by white people to make them feel good about themselves. It has nothing to say and it exploits black people just as much as the book does and as much as Stockett did when she stole her family’s maid story (and I think it says a lot that Stockett’s family supports THE MAID in the lawsuit).

  12. vanessa

    Yes I did see the film and I agree with the article wholeheartedly. I think quite frankly, that ‘The Help’ is a film that is made by white people to make them feel good about themselves. It has nothing to say and it exploits black people just as much as the book does and as much as Stockett did when she stole her family’s maid story (and I think it says a lot that Stockett’s family supports THE MAID in the lawsuit).

  13. Well… all this controversy. I had little interest in a movie of an Oprah book, but if it makes people this mad, I might give it a shot.

    I also enjoy the handwringing over how to treat well-regarded Black actors who get big roles in these movies. For over 20 years, we’ve heard people saying “it’s such a travesty that DRIVING MISS DAISY won Best Picture and DO THE RIGHT THING wasn;t nominated. But Morgan Freeman was wonderful.”

    The fact is that they were both very good movies. It’s just that the critical intelligensia is extremely uncomfortable with movies about race that aren;t overwhelmingly depressing. News flash, the rest of the wrod (INCLUDING MAINSTREAM BLACK AUDIENCES) don’t necessarily feel that way. The reason DRIVING MISS DAISY won the Oscar is that lots of people went to see it (over $100mil wiith a movie about two old people… that’s rare), while audiences didn;t exactly flock to Spike’s movie (decent biz, but no dRIVING MISS DAISY). We saw that again recently with THE BLIND SIDE vs PRECIOUS, two excellent movies that deserved their Oscar attention, but boy did critics hate THE BLIND SIDE and like PRECIOUS. The rest of the world? BLIND SIDE was a domestic comedy-drama that made a gajillion dollars, while PRECIOUS might have made around $30. When I asked the movie theatre workers (many of whom were Black youth or AARP-ers), which movie tosee, I oft got directed to BLIND SIDE, I also got directed away from PRECIOUS. Do you want ot see a 300-lb guy become a football star or a 300-lb girl get pregnant, have AIDS and steal Fried Chicken?

    So what’s the message to Black actors? Don;t do historical pieces. But if you do, make them sufficiently unmarketable so that no one will come see them. Viola seems to be a poster child for this. Her two big roles have been playing blue-collar women in the 60s; the same people singing her praises most strongly seem to not like her career choices (I’m aware that actors can;t always choose what they’re going to do).

    I was also a bit bothered by the MEAN GIRLS crack. Yes, all sorts of horrible thing shappened in the South, I’m sure having a pettily unpleasant mistress was probably one of them. There is a certain strain of person who emits that MEAN GIRLS vibe, and many of the ones I’ve met are well-to-do women in the South. I see no reason to not believe that that wasn;t true 50 years ago.

    One problem historical movies always have trouble with is how to have African-Americans talk. The Southern dialect in any form can easily come across as painful stereotyping (one of the few that avoided that… SANDRA BULLOCK in THE BLIND SIDE. she was spot on with that. Go figure)Southern Black dialectsin movies almost always raise the hackles of “I’m hearing something horribly stereotypical”

  14. Well… all this controversy. I had little interest in a movie of an Oprah book, but if it makes people this mad, I might give it a shot.

    I also enjoy the handwringing over how to treat well-regarded Black actors who get big roles in these movies. For over 20 years, we’ve heard people saying “it’s such a travesty that DRIVING MISS DAISY won Best Picture and DO THE RIGHT THING wasn;t nominated. But Morgan Freeman was wonderful.”

    The fact is that they were both very good movies. It’s just that the critical intelligensia is extremely uncomfortable with movies about race that aren;t overwhelmingly depressing. News flash, the rest of the wrod (INCLUDING MAINSTREAM BLACK AUDIENCES) don’t necessarily feel that way. The reason DRIVING MISS DAISY won the Oscar is that lots of people went to see it (over $100mil wiith a movie about two old people… that’s rare), while audiences didn;t exactly flock to Spike’s movie (decent biz, but no dRIVING MISS DAISY). We saw that again recently with THE BLIND SIDE vs PRECIOUS, two excellent movies that deserved their Oscar attention, but boy did critics hate THE BLIND SIDE and like PRECIOUS. The rest of the world? BLIND SIDE was a domestic comedy-drama that made a gajillion dollars, while PRECIOUS might have made around $30. When I asked the movie theatre workers (many of whom were Black youth or AARP-ers), which movie tosee, I oft got directed to BLIND SIDE, I also got directed away from PRECIOUS. Do you want ot see a 300-lb guy become a football star or a 300-lb girl get pregnant, have AIDS and steal Fried Chicken?

    So what’s the message to Black actors? Don;t do historical pieces. But if you do, make them sufficiently unmarketable so that no one will come see them. Viola seems to be a poster child for this. Her two big roles have been playing blue-collar women in the 60s; the same people singing her praises most strongly seem to not like her career choices (I’m aware that actors can;t always choose what they’re going to do).

    I was also a bit bothered by the MEAN GIRLS crack. Yes, all sorts of horrible thing shappened in the South, I’m sure having a pettily unpleasant mistress was probably one of them. There is a certain strain of person who emits that MEAN GIRLS vibe, and many of the ones I’ve met are well-to-do women in the South. I see no reason to not believe that that wasn;t true 50 years ago.

    One problem historical movies always have trouble with is how to have African-Americans talk. The Southern dialect in any form can easily come across as painful stereotyping (one of the few that avoided that… SANDRA BULLOCK in THE BLIND SIDE. she was spot on with that. Go figure)Southern Black dialectsin movies almost always raise the hackles of “I’m hearing something horribly stereotypical”

  15. I have to see the film before I judge it. I am surprised that the controversy surrounding the lawsuit has gotten so little attention. It definitely will impact the way I analyze the story if Ablene Cooper felt her story was stolen and it was unauthorized by the white Stockett. Then you cannot argue that it is not exploitative. I have also read the book and have seen many clips from the movie. There is a dark comedic element derived from some of the racism and many will find that offensive. As a minority, I expect it will be painful to watch as racially charged movies always are. Many are also arguing that it is anti-feminist. Again, I have to re-read the book and watch the movie in order to evaluate it properly. It is a shame because from the footage I have seen, Octavia, Viola, and Emma seem to give good performances. If the story was stolen and was exploitative, it will negatively impact its Oscar’s chances. The academy has had a bad reputation in the past with this kind of racially charged material and I don’t they want to deal with backlash or boycotts.

    My prediction: It might get the Critics Choice and SAG ensemble nominations. It might score some Independent Spirit Award nominations at the most. 2011 is a very competitive year. The slots for Best Actress and Supporting Actress are already very crowded as far as which women will be in contention for Oscars. Also, the August release date does not help. Some of the Oscar buzz will be deflated by other movies by December.

  16. I have to see the film before I judge it. I am surprised that the controversy surrounding the lawsuit has gotten so little attention. It definitely will impact the way I analyze the story if Ablene Cooper felt her story was stolen and it was unauthorized by the white Stockett. Then you cannot argue that it is not exploitative. I have also read the book and have seen many clips from the movie. There is a dark comedic element derived from some of the racism and many will find that offensive. As a minority, I expect it will be painful to watch as racially charged movies always are. Many are also arguing that it is anti-feminist. Again, I have to re-read the book and watch the movie in order to evaluate it properly. It is a shame because from the footage I have seen, Octavia, Viola, and Emma seem to give good performances. If the story was stolen and was exploitative, it will negatively impact its Oscar’s chances. The academy has had a bad reputation in the past with this kind of racially charged material and I don’t they want to deal with backlash or boycotts.

    My prediction: It might get the Critics Choice and SAG ensemble nominations. It might score some Independent Spirit Award nominations at the most. 2011 is a very competitive year. The slots for Best Actress and Supporting Actress are already very crowded as far as which women will be in contention for Oscars. Also, the August release date does not help. Some of the Oscar buzz will be deflated by other movies by December.

  17. Vincent

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I feel like one week I’m reading about there being no roles for black actors, male or female. Here we have a film, that I thoroughly enjoyed because it was a good story, where actors such as Viola and Octavia sank their teeth into their characters, and didn’t seem to have a problem with the story/script.

    I also read a review of the film where Emma Stone’s character was referred to as “Whitie.” Now, that seems rather racist to me. What if one of the black characters was referred to as “blackie.” Would that critic still have a job??

    Racism is alive and well, that’s for sure. But, let’s us not forget, it’s not always in the form we assume…

  18. Vincent

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I feel like one week I’m reading about there being no roles for black actors, male or female. Here we have a film, that I thoroughly enjoyed because it was a good story, where actors such as Viola and Octavia sank their teeth into their characters, and didn’t seem to have a problem with the story/script.

    I also read a review of the film where Emma Stone’s character was referred to as “Whitie.” Now, that seems rather racist to me. What if one of the black characters was referred to as “blackie.” Would that critic still have a job??

    Racism is alive and well, that’s for sure. But, let’s us not forget, it’s not always in the form we assume…

  19. Paddy M

    Sasha, being of two minds about a film can be discomforting – you’re unsure of quite how it makes you feel. I find myself increasingly of two minds about many films I watch, but I’m eager to see The Help now in order to make my own assessment. Then again, I think it has already been made clear how I am likely to feel about the topics being discussed here.

    I’m mightily disappointed by this. I’m also disappointed that Tyler Perry has endorsed The Help – I respect the opinions of any African-American over the content of this film, but Perry is doing his own community few favours by choosing not to speak out. The ABWH should be proud of itself as an organisation, and I hope their statement reaches as wide an audience as the film. Fat chance, though. I think most white Americans are far more comfortable feeling reassured and cosy about their history than having their ideals challenged.

  20. Paddy M

    Sasha, being of two minds about a film can be discomforting – you’re unsure of quite how it makes you feel. I find myself increasingly of two minds about many films I watch, but I’m eager to see The Help now in order to make my own assessment. Then again, I think it has already been made clear how I am likely to feel about the topics being discussed here.

    I’m mightily disappointed by this. I’m also disappointed that Tyler Perry has endorsed The Help – I respect the opinions of any African-American over the content of this film, but Perry is doing his own community few favours by choosing not to speak out. The ABWH should be proud of itself as an organisation, and I hope their statement reaches as wide an audience as the film. Fat chance, though. I think most white Americans are far more comfortable feeling reassured and cosy about their history than having their ideals challenged.

  21. Paddy M

    Also, john, your comment is so riddled with inaccuracies and exaggerations and misses the point by so wide a mark that I won’t even begin to correct you, but you ought to think things through before you start offering up juvenile thoughts and statements.

  22. Paddy M

    Also, john, your comment is so riddled with inaccuracies and exaggerations and misses the point by so wide a mark that I won’t even begin to correct you, but you ought to think things through before you start offering up juvenile thoughts and statements.

  23. Rudi Mentär

    I remember Oscar-year 2010. At the end of “the Hurt Locker” Sergeant William James decides to stay outside the US and go on fighting a very clear enemy and carries the worries of the US-American audience away.
    While James get very good paid for playing the hero, which is satisfaction to his narcissistic male nature, Precious has to fight and suffer under problems made by a society which is not willing to deal with it’s inner problems. It was important to have a first female director with an oscar, but somehow it occured important to many people, too, to give the Oscar for best female performance to a white woman that takes care of a dump clichè of an African American. So as long as there are brave soldiers like Sergeant William James, who are carrying problems to the outside, nice white women, which take care of problematic black people and nice black women, who work for troubled white women, everything’s fine in America.

  24. Rudi Mentär

    I remember Oscar-year 2010. At the end of “the Hurt Locker” Sergeant William James decides to stay outside the US and go on fighting a very clear enemy and carries the worries of the US-American audience away.
    While James get very good paid for playing the hero, which is satisfaction to his narcissistic male nature, Precious has to fight and suffer under problems made by a society which is not willing to deal with it’s inner problems. It was important to have a first female director with an oscar, but somehow it occured important to many people, too, to give the Oscar for best female performance to a white woman that takes care of a dump clichè of an African American. So as long as there are brave soldiers like Sergeant William James, who are carrying problems to the outside, nice white women, which take care of problematic black people and nice black women, who work for troubled white women, everything’s fine in America.

  25. helluvalife

    Vanessa, I take it you have a positive takeaway… as in women (mostly black, some whites) helping each other for betterment of women kind.

  26. helluvalife

    Vanessa, I take it you have a positive takeaway… as in women (mostly black, some whites) helping each other for betterment of women kind.

  27. Correction of Typos: The academy has had a bad reputation in the past with this kind of racially charged material and they do not want to deal with backlash or boycotts.

    It would be different if it was a weak year for nominations but I think it will be a very strong and divisive year with a lot of competition against The Help that is less controversial. It was a very mixed experience reading the book. I was sometimes outraged, though my outrage was directed more towards the negative white characters so I am not sure how much of it reflects negatively upon the African-American community. It did seem to be a rather accurate reflection of its time period. This kind of racism and behavior did not exist. Whether we like it or not, African-Americans, especially the women were mistreated like this and served as servants & etc in the South. Many of them did not get a chance to receive a proper education. Stereotypes hurt to watch but they are not all fake. Some people did fit the stereotype back then. For example, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn had racist language and stereotypes but critics judge it differently because it was a reflection of its time and certain words were not viewed as offensive back then. I am Latino but I cannot be offended by every depiction of a Latino as a gangster or uneducated or whatever. Though it does upset me. I do wish minorities had more ground-breaking roles and better parts/movies representing us in Hollywood.

    I have to do more research to see if the dialogue and vernacular was incorrect and offensive. I also have to do more research into the lawsuit because it changes the entire tone of the book and movie. If Ablene Cooper found it exploitative and wrong, then it will cause a reaction. It changes matters entirely. I also never heard any African-American refer to the Lord as “Law” even with a southern accent. Then again,
    I did not live during that time. It is tough to judge because there is a line when it comes to morals and
    race and etc when it comes to evaluating films & performances. For example, I hate adultery but I don’t hate every movie that has adultery in it. I can separate the film from my principles even though Hollywood does glorify a lot of bad things. I have to analyze it further to see if The Help crosses that line.

  28. Correction of Typos: The academy has had a bad reputation in the past with this kind of racially charged material and they do not want to deal with backlash or boycotts.

    It would be different if it was a weak year for nominations but I think it will be a very strong and divisive year with a lot of competition against The Help that is less controversial. It was a very mixed experience reading the book. I was sometimes outraged, though my outrage was directed more towards the negative white characters so I am not sure how much of it reflects negatively upon the African-American community. It did seem to be a rather accurate reflection of its time period. This kind of racism and behavior did not exist. Whether we like it or not, African-Americans, especially the women were mistreated like this and served as servants & etc in the South. Many of them did not get a chance to receive a proper education. Stereotypes hurt to watch but they are not all fake. Some people did fit the stereotype back then. For example, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn had racist language and stereotypes but critics judge it differently because it was a reflection of its time and certain words were not viewed as offensive back then. I am Latino but I cannot be offended by every depiction of a Latino as a gangster or uneducated or whatever. Though it does upset me. I do wish minorities had more ground-breaking roles and better parts/movies representing us in Hollywood.

    I have to do more research to see if the dialogue and vernacular was incorrect and offensive. I also have to do more research into the lawsuit because it changes the entire tone of the book and movie. If Ablene Cooper found it exploitative and wrong, then it will cause a reaction. It changes matters entirely. I also never heard any African-American refer to the Lord as “Law” even with a southern accent. Then again,
    I did not live during that time. It is tough to judge because there is a line when it comes to morals and
    race and etc when it comes to evaluating films & performances. For example, I hate adultery but I don’t hate every movie that has adultery in it. I can separate the film from my principles even though Hollywood does glorify a lot of bad things. I have to analyze it further to see if The Help crosses that line.

  29. Gentle Benj

    So as long as there’re brave soldiers like Seargent William James, who are carrying problems to the outside. . .everything’s fine in America.

    Face. PALM.

  30. Gentle Benj

    So as long as there’re brave soldiers like Seargent William James, who are carrying problems to the outside. . .everything’s fine in America.

    Face. PALM.

  31. Just for the record, I am not taking sides here. I am just offering thoughts on both positions as to whether or not to disapprove of the movie/book. It is very complicated.

  32. Just for the record, I am not taking sides here. I am just offering thoughts on both positions as to whether or not to disapprove of the movie/book. It is very complicated.

  33. Another big correction: It did seem to be a rather accurate reflection of its time period. This kind of racism and behavior DID exist. Whether we like it or not, African-Americans, especially the women were mistreated like this and served as servants & etc in the South during this era.

  34. Another big correction: It did seem to be a rather accurate reflection of its time period. This kind of racism and behavior DID exist. Whether we like it or not, African-Americans, especially the women were mistreated like this and served as servants & etc in the South during this era.

  35. This country was founded on slavery. And not a lot has really changed in economic terms.
    Who do you think manicures all the lawns in California? And picks all the vegetables and fruit?
    It’s still another form of exploiting labor. And it’s all a matter of perspective.

    I still want to see “The Help” . . . if nothing else, the cast appears stellar.

  36. This country was founded on slavery. And not a lot has really changed in economic terms.
    Who do you think manicures all the lawns in California? And picks all the vegetables and fruit?
    It’s still another form of exploiting labor. And it’s all a matter of perspective.

    I still want to see “The Help” . . . if nothing else, the cast appears stellar.

  37. There’s a firestorm a brewin all right and it’s the A+ Cinemascope score. Seems like audiences are loving it.

    Would be fascinating to see that Cinemascore broken down by race. Would even be interesting to see a simple ratio of black to white people in these audiences.

    Because this is a story about black people written and directed by white people, with white people occupying center stage. The featured black character can’t even tell her own story in the context of the film. She has to depend on the Benevolent White Lady to stick up for her.

    Most egregious of all — even if we can surely agree that Skeeter and Aibileen are co-leads, you will find a debate on every movie site today about whether Viola Davis would be better off running as Supporting Actress.

    gee, how is it a surprise that the white target audience is tickled pink with a movie that makes rich white southern belles the stars of po’ black folk’s lives again? Isn’t that exactly what won Sandra Bullock an Oscar two years ago?

  38. There’s a firestorm a brewin all right and it’s the A+ Cinemascope score. Seems like audiences are loving it.

    Would be fascinating to see that Cinemascore broken down by race. Would even be interesting to see a simple ratio of black to white people in these audiences.

    Because this is a story about black people written and directed by white people, with white people occupying center stage. The featured black character can’t even tell her own story in the context of the film. She has to depend on the Benevolent White Lady to stick up for her.

    Most egregious of all — even if we can surely agree that Skeeter and Aibileen are co-leads, you will find a debate on every movie site today about whether Viola Davis would be better off running as Supporting Actress.

    gee, how is it a surprise that the white target audience is tickled pink with a movie that makes rich white southern belles the stars of po’ black folk’s lives again? Isn’t that exactly what won Sandra Bullock an Oscar two years ago?

  39. The fact is that they were both very good movies. It’s just that the critical intelligensia is extremely uncomfortable with movies about race that aren;t overwhelmingly depressing.

    I find Driving Miss Daisy far more depressing than Do the Right Thing — in every way.

  40. The fact is that they were both very good movies. It’s just that the critical intelligensia is extremely uncomfortable with movies about race that aren;t overwhelmingly depressing.

    I find Driving Miss Daisy far more depressing than Do the Right Thing — in every way.

  41. Gentle Benj

    we can surely agree that Skeeter and Aibileen are co-leads

    Haven’t read it or seen it, so that’s informative to me. Also, considering the lawsuit and whatnot, it’s funny that Stone’s character shares a name with a certain unscrupulous, shapeshifting journalist…

  42. Gentle Benj

    we can surely agree that Skeeter and Aibileen are co-leads

    Haven’t read it or seen it, so that’s informative to me. Also, considering the lawsuit and whatnot, it’s funny that Stone’s character shares a name with a certain unscrupulous, shapeshifting journalist…

  43. “Probably those who greenlit The Help never imagined it would be birthed into a racially contentious time in our history. It’s 2011 and we have our nation’s first black president – the shit has mostly hit the fan, but let’s face it – race relations have never entirely cooled down, not when Rodney King was beaten up, not when OJ was set free, not during Hurricane Katrina’s wrath, not now, when Obama and his very black family live in the very White House. We can all pretend like it isn’t still a controversial topic, and that we’ve moved beyond racism and all of that – but we haven’t. The only thing, in fact, that keeps it from stirring up is the contrived political correctness we all try to adhere to.”
    – So much wrong in that first paragraph it is almost obscene.
    – I don’t know what you are trying to imply by saying race relations are somehow bad today. Sasha, racism will never go away regardless of who possesses those thoughts or acts out on that ignorant belief (knowing your political beliefs thoroughly, I’m confident saying that you think white people are the only ones who can be racist).
    – Those LAPD officers were way out of line beating the snot out of King. But the video did not show when King attacked the officers before the beating ensued. And I’m sorry, that does not give those deviants to riot and loot THEIR OWN NEIGHBORHOODS.
    – O.J. was guilty, but Johnny turned the whole trial into some race-related nonsense. Know intelligent human being who has studied the case would come back and say, “Boy, O.J. wasn’t guilty.” Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman’s DNA was IN THE BRONCO. Facts are inconvenient things.
    – For once, I would like to here these hole-in-the-sand Leftists admit that Mr. President is just as much white as he is black. But why should it even matter. Race is not an issue anymore when it is an advantage to be non-white (e.g. college admissions and hiring practices).
    – Finally, Political Correctness is the problem. You can never discuss the issue of race, particularly with Leftists, because anything contrary to their white-guilt, self loathing mindset will ignite a childish and hostile reaction which is beyond the pale. Their whole argument boils down to this; white = bad, non-white = good.

  44. “Probably those who greenlit The Help never imagined it would be birthed into a racially contentious time in our history. It’s 2011 and we have our nation’s first black president – the shit has mostly hit the fan, but let’s face it – race relations have never entirely cooled down, not when Rodney King was beaten up, not when OJ was set free, not during Hurricane Katrina’s wrath, not now, when Obama and his very black family live in the very White House. We can all pretend like it isn’t still a controversial topic, and that we’ve moved beyond racism and all of that – but we haven’t. The only thing, in fact, that keeps it from stirring up is the contrived political correctness we all try to adhere to.”
    – So much wrong in that first paragraph it is almost obscene.
    – I don’t know what you are trying to imply by saying race relations are somehow bad today. Sasha, racism will never go away regardless of who possesses those thoughts or acts out on that ignorant belief (knowing your political beliefs thoroughly, I’m confident saying that you think white people are the only ones who can be racist).
    – Those LAPD officers were way out of line beating the snot out of King. But the video did not show when King attacked the officers before the beating ensued. And I’m sorry, that does not give those deviants to riot and loot THEIR OWN NEIGHBORHOODS.
    – O.J. was guilty, but Johnny turned the whole trial into some race-related nonsense. Know intelligent human being who has studied the case would come back and say, “Boy, O.J. wasn’t guilty.” Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman’s DNA was IN THE BRONCO. Facts are inconvenient things.
    – For once, I would like to here these hole-in-the-sand Leftists admit that Mr. President is just as much white as he is black. But why should it even matter. Race is not an issue anymore when it is an advantage to be non-white (e.g. college admissions and hiring practices).
    – Finally, Political Correctness is the problem. You can never discuss the issue of race, particularly with Leftists, because anything contrary to their white-guilt, self loathing mindset will ignite a childish and hostile reaction which is beyond the pale. Their whole argument boils down to this; white = bad, non-white = good.

  45. I haven’t read The Help and neither did I have any desire to do so. Up until last week, I had planned to completely ignore the movie as well. However, I don’t recall any firestorm kicking up when the book became a bestseller. And that makes me depressed. Classics like Beloved, To Kill A Mockingbird and The Color Purple are constantly challenged; and there are people who want to alter Mark Twain’s words. Yet, despite being a bestseller, the print version of The Help was mostly given a pass for its gross inaccuracies. Is it a sign of our slipping literary standards that books are not held to the same scrutiny as movies?

  46. I haven’t read The Help and neither did I have any desire to do so. Up until last week, I had planned to completely ignore the movie as well. However, I don’t recall any firestorm kicking up when the book became a bestseller. And that makes me depressed. Classics like Beloved, To Kill A Mockingbird and The Color Purple are constantly challenged; and there are people who want to alter Mark Twain’s words. Yet, despite being a bestseller, the print version of The Help was mostly given a pass for its gross inaccuracies. Is it a sign of our slipping literary standards that books are not held to the same scrutiny as movies?

  47. Ok, I may get some hate for this, but I am so sick and tired of Black right’s groups spouting their nonsense. Nothing is ever good enough for them. They have issue with the way the black women talk in the film, um, have you seen young black people today????????? They say things like “wif” instead of “with”, “birf” instead of “birth”. I mean come on. I’m not stereotyping either because plenty of white people speak like this too, but to say that these people don’t talk like this at all is just ridiculous. Also, they don’t know how black maids felt back in the fifties, they may have really bonded with the white children. I’m not saying that their work wasn’t hard, but to just say “Oh they got used and abused and thrown away.” not all houses were like that. And they complain that the civil rights weren’t depicted in this story, that’s because these women were fighting for their own civil right’s in their own way. They didn’t need to go march on washington. They had to fight for people to know about their lives through the book. Gawd, when will the black community stop degrading their own people when they are doing great things. They rail roaded Hattie McDaniel for playing Mammie and now they are after Viola Davis. I hope Hollywood sends a great message to them by rewarding Viola for her fantastic performance.

  48. Ok, I may get some hate for this, but I am so sick and tired of Black right’s groups spouting their nonsense. Nothing is ever good enough for them. They have issue with the way the black women talk in the film, um, have you seen young black people today????????? They say things like “wif” instead of “with”, “birf” instead of “birth”. I mean come on. I’m not stereotyping either because plenty of white people speak like this too, but to say that these people don’t talk like this at all is just ridiculous. Also, they don’t know how black maids felt back in the fifties, they may have really bonded with the white children. I’m not saying that their work wasn’t hard, but to just say “Oh they got used and abused and thrown away.” not all houses were like that. And they complain that the civil rights weren’t depicted in this story, that’s because these women were fighting for their own civil right’s in their own way. They didn’t need to go march on washington. They had to fight for people to know about their lives through the book. Gawd, when will the black community stop degrading their own people when they are doing great things. They rail roaded Hattie McDaniel for playing Mammie and now they are after Viola Davis. I hope Hollywood sends a great message to them by rewarding Viola for her fantastic performance.

  49. Osbourne Cox

    ryan, I don’t hate you. I don’t have the energy to hate you. You’re just one of the many ignorant racists that I encounter on a daily basis who excel at talking out of their asses. However, I’m pleasantly surprised that you didn’t throw in a line about how you have black friends to somehow absolve you of your race wank.

  50. Osbourne Cox

    ryan, I don’t hate you. I don’t have the energy to hate you. You’re just one of the many ignorant racists that I encounter on a daily basis who excel at talking out of their asses. However, I’m pleasantly surprised that you didn’t throw in a line about how you have black friends to somehow absolve you of your race wank.

  51. I haven’t read The Help and neither did I have any desire to do so.

    dela, you can go to Amazon.com and use the “Look Inside!” feature to read the first few pages. Assuming you make it past the first few sentences.

    I couldn’t. Because it irks ,me every time the author replaces “of” with “a” — and that happens a dozen times on the first page.

    Do we need a reminder every 10 words that the black characters have an accent.that drops consonants? It’s archaic and clumsy. It’s insulting because it implies ignorance of grammar rather than accent.

    We’re supposed to buy that this a woman who doesn’t know the difference between “of” and “a” — and yet all the thirty words on page one that end with -ing are spelled out in proper Queen-of-England diction?

    It’s inconsistently artificial. It’s gross.

    And it’s racially selective.
    Miss Hilly says, “Guess who I ran into at the beauty parlor.”

    How come that’s not spelled “byoodee pawrler”? Because I guarandamntee you that’s how Southern women pronounce it. Even the rich ones.

  52. I haven’t read The Help and neither did I have any desire to do so.

    dela, you can go to Amazon.com and use the “Look Inside!” feature to read the first few pages. Assuming you make it past the first few sentences.

    I couldn’t. Because it irks ,me every time the author replaces “of” with “a” — and that happens a dozen times on the first page.

    Do we need a reminder every 10 words that the black characters have an accent.that drops consonants? It’s archaic and clumsy. It’s insulting because it implies ignorance of grammar rather than accent.

    We’re supposed to buy that this a woman who doesn’t know the difference between “of” and “a” — and yet all the thirty words on page one that end with -ing are spelled out in proper Queen-of-England diction?

    It’s inconsistently artificial. It’s gross.

    And it’s racially selective.
    Miss Hilly says, “Guess who I ran into at the beauty parlor.”

    How come that’s not spelled “byoodee pawrler”? Because I guarandamntee you that’s how Southern women pronounce it. Even the rich ones.

  53. Bob Burns

    Thanks for posting the statement from Association of Black Women Historians.

    Jim Crow was evil, evil evil. It should never be trivialized.

  54. Bob Burns

    Thanks for posting the statement from Association of Black Women Historians.

    Jim Crow was evil, evil evil. It should never be trivialized.

  55. phantom

    Great piece, Sasha, especially the last paragraph.

  56. phantom

    Great piece, Sasha, especially the last paragraph.

  57. Facts are inconvenient things.
    Race is not an issue anymore when it is an advantage to be non-white (e.g. college admissions and hiring practices).

    Sam, 69 percent of African Americans who enrolled in college did not finish because of high student loan debts as opposed to 43 percent of white students who cited the same problem.

    Black people represent 12.6% of the US population
    Black students represent 11% of total college enrollment
    (if black applicants were getting preferential treatment, shouldn’t that enrollment percentage be greater than 12.6%?)

    college enrollment rates of high school graduates
    white (68.6 percent)
    black (61.4 percent)
    of Asians (84.0 percent)

    maybe you should be fearing this Asian invasion, Sam… no, wait:
    college enrollment rate
    74.0 percent, young women
    62.8 percent, young men

    it’s the young women you need to be mad about, Sam. especially young Asian women.

    it is an advantage to be non-white

    tell that to the black guys in prison
    blacks represent about 33% of drug arrests, but they constitute 46% of persons convicted of drug felonies in state courts.

    there are 5 times as many white dug users as there are black drug users.
    do you think there are 5 times more white people than black people in prison for drug offenses?

    in fact, relative to population, blacks are 10.1 times more likely than whites to be sent to prison for drug offenses.

    Black workers get all those advantages when it comes to “hiring practices,” though, right?

    June 27, 2011:
    Unemployment rates:
    Overall: 9%
    White workers: 8%
    Black workers: 16%

    Facts are inconvenient things.

  58. Facts are inconvenient things.
    Race is not an issue anymore when it is an advantage to be non-white (e.g. college admissions and hiring practices).

    Sam, 69 percent of African Americans who enrolled in college did not finish because of high student loan debts as opposed to 43 percent of white students who cited the same problem.

    Black people represent 12.6% of the US population
    Black students represent 11% of total college enrollment
    (if black applicants were getting preferential treatment, shouldn’t that enrollment percentage be greater than 12.6%?)

    college enrollment rates of high school graduates
    white (68.6 percent)
    black (61.4 percent)
    of Asians (84.0 percent)

    maybe you should be fearing this Asian invasion, Sam… no, wait:
    college enrollment rate
    74.0 percent, young women
    62.8 percent, young men

    it’s the young women you need to be mad about, Sam. especially young Asian women.

    it is an advantage to be non-white

    tell that to the black guys in prison
    blacks represent about 33% of drug arrests, but they constitute 46% of persons convicted of drug felonies in state courts.

    there are 5 times as many white dug users as there are black drug users.
    do you think there are 5 times more white people than black people in prison for drug offenses?

    in fact, relative to population, blacks are 10.1 times more likely than whites to be sent to prison for drug offenses.

    Black workers get all those advantages when it comes to “hiring practices,” though, right?

    June 27, 2011:
    Unemployment rates:
    Overall: 9%
    White workers: 8%
    Black workers: 16%

    Facts are inconvenient things.

  59. Gentle Benj

    Assuming you make it past the first few sentences. I couldn’t.

    That’s what happened to me with Twilight! I got to “My carry-on item was a parka” and put it back on the shelf. That’s what passes for an opening-paragraph line in a runaway bestseller these days?

  60. Gentle Benj

    Assuming you make it past the first few sentences. I couldn’t.

    That’s what happened to me with Twilight! I got to “My carry-on item was a parka” and put it back on the shelf. That’s what passes for an opening-paragraph line in a runaway bestseller these days?

  61. That’s what passes for an opening-paragraph line in a runaway bestseller these days?

    runaway bestsellers are to good literature as Transformers 3 is to good cinema

  62. That’s what passes for an opening-paragraph line in a runaway bestseller these days?

    runaway bestsellers are to good literature as Transformers 3 is to good cinema

  63. Ryan Adams, there is a simple answer to what afflicts many in the black community and other U.S. citizens at large: The dismantling of the Nuclear Family. Which you and your ilk are seeking to destroy piece by piece. Remember, when anything goes eventually every thing will go. But what am I doing? Arguing with the likes of you is comparable to having a debate with a toaster.

  64. Ryan Adams, there is a simple answer to what afflicts many in the black community and other U.S. citizens at large: The dismantling of the Nuclear Family. Which you and your ilk are seeking to destroy piece by piece. Remember, when anything goes eventually every thing will go. But what am I doing? Arguing with the likes of you is comparable to having a debate with a toaster.

  65. ^
    the number and gender of parents in a household is insignificant
    the troubled kids come from low income households, no matter matter how many parents they have, no matter what color their parents happen to be.

  66. ^
    the number and gender of parents in a household is insignificant
    the troubled kids come from low income households, no matter matter how many parents they have, no matter what color their parents happen to be.

  67. Paddy M says:

    August 11, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Also, john, your comment is so riddled with inaccuracies and exaggerations and misses the point by so wide a mark that I won’t even begin to correct you, but you ought to think things through before you start offering up juvenile thoughts and statements.

    Paddy,
    Then you should have plenty to address. Make your point or keep quiet. You’ve got all the space in the world. That’s why its called discussion. But this kind of comment is exactly the problem in discussion like this. “I don’t like what you say, say I’ll just call you juvenile without addressing what you say.”

    Discussion doesn’t work that way. You don’t like what I have to say, address it or keep quiet. And understand that when you address it, I will respond. I’m not hostile, I’m not rude. I will respond to what you say, and that’s what we call polite doscourse.

    HOWEVER, if you take vague potshots, I am going to call you on it. That’s just lazy or cowardly, and I’m going to assume that you’re neither

  68. Paddy M says:

    August 11, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Also, john, your comment is so riddled with inaccuracies and exaggerations and misses the point by so wide a mark that I won’t even begin to correct you, but you ought to think things through before you start offering up juvenile thoughts and statements.

    Paddy,
    Then you should have plenty to address. Make your point or keep quiet. You’ve got all the space in the world. That’s why its called discussion. But this kind of comment is exactly the problem in discussion like this. “I don’t like what you say, say I’ll just call you juvenile without addressing what you say.”

    Discussion doesn’t work that way. You don’t like what I have to say, address it or keep quiet. And understand that when you address it, I will respond. I’m not hostile, I’m not rude. I will respond to what you say, and that’s what we call polite doscourse.

    HOWEVER, if you take vague potshots, I am going to call you on it. That’s just lazy or cowardly, and I’m going to assume that you’re neither

  69. Gentle Benj

    the number and gender of parents in a household is insignificant
    the troubled kids come from low income households, no matter matter how many parents they have, no matter what color their parents happen to be.

    I don’t know anything about gender or color, but studies don’t support that claim about number. And it can’t be reduced to a restatement of income, because according to the last census, single-parent households are less likely to live in poverty, not more.

  70. Gentle Benj

    the number and gender of parents in a household is insignificant
    the troubled kids come from low income households, no matter matter how many parents they have, no matter what color their parents happen to be.

    I don’t know anything about gender or color, but studies don’t support that claim about number. And it can’t be reduced to a restatement of income, because according to the last census, single-parent households are less likely to live in poverty, not more.

  71. Dr. Strangelove

    How many of you grew up in urban or suburban poverty? (Hint: I did.)

  72. Dr. Strangelove

    How many of you grew up in urban or suburban poverty? (Hint: I did.)

  73. I thought the film, although flawed, was an improvement on a seriously flawed book and that the performances were excellent. This is certainly worth an ensemble nod from SAG. I am rooting for Octavia Spencer to get an Oscar nomination. To go from “Dinner for Schmucks” to this—there’s glory for you!

  74. I thought the film, although flawed, was an improvement on a seriously flawed book and that the performances were excellent. This is certainly worth an ensemble nod from SAG. I am rooting for Octavia Spencer to get an Oscar nomination. To go from “Dinner for Schmucks” to this—there’s glory for you!

  75. because according to the last census, single-parent households are less likely to live in poverty, not more.

    but that’s what I mean, Benj.

    Sam wants to say Bad Kids are the inevitable result of single-parent broken homes. I say all the people I know from “broken homes” are remarkably successful and well-adjusted. It’s the people I know who grew up disadvantaged who have a lot of knotty social problems — even if their parents are still together.

    Makes no difference how many of their parents live under the same roof. The people I know who grew up poor are the most troubled.

    I don’t have stats for that. I don’t need them. I have my eyes. I have my personal common-sense anecdotal evidence.

    So, thanks for helping me make that clear.

  76. because according to the last census, single-parent households are less likely to live in poverty, not more.

    but that’s what I mean, Benj.

    Sam wants to say Bad Kids are the inevitable result of single-parent broken homes. I say all the people I know from “broken homes” are remarkably successful and well-adjusted. It’s the people I know who grew up disadvantaged who have a lot of knotty social problems — even if their parents are still together.

    Makes no difference how many of their parents live under the same roof. The people I know who grew up poor are the most troubled.

    I don’t have stats for that. I don’t need them. I have my eyes. I have my personal common-sense anecdotal evidence.

    So, thanks for helping me make that clear.

  77. Let the Oscar mud-slinging begin!
    This is a great film and many of the objections to it are forced and misguided readings. True, Skeeter gets her dream job at the end, but Aibileen also finds confidence in her voice and Minny gets the courage to leave her abusive husband. These small acts should not be read purely at face value, but rather as symbolic gestures towards change.
    I applaud the film – especially the performances (including Howard and Chastain) – for providing high quality, socially relevant cinema in a summer when critics are going ape for mediocre films.

  78. Let the Oscar mud-slinging begin!
    This is a great film and many of the objections to it are forced and misguided readings. True, Skeeter gets her dream job at the end, but Aibileen also finds confidence in her voice and Minny gets the courage to leave her abusive husband. These small acts should not be read purely at face value, but rather as symbolic gestures towards change.
    I applaud the film – especially the performances (including Howard and Chastain) – for providing high quality, socially relevant cinema in a summer when critics are going ape for mediocre films.

  79. I saw this coming a mile off. And it makes me REALLY not want to see this film. I, a writer who applauds roles for women and women of color, and regularly covers them on my TV show and in my Oscar Blog, was NOT invited to see this.

    I guess they thought I wouldn’t like it, and wouldn’t respect the”Embargo.” and that’s probably a “yes” to both points.

    Now I REALLY don’t want to see it.

    And this is exactly who the Academy will react to a film that is this controversial and clearly not supported by the black community.

    And it’s death to Oscar nominations. So…Viola and Ms. Spenser… I don’t think have a hope in heck now…

    But the only upside of this that I can see coming Viola Davis’ way is that she, and her immense talent, is now the focus of a national conversation, about well, her deserving talent. She’s becoming an emblem, a Natiion Symbol ~ of uber-talented African-American actresses – who don’t deserve the roles they DO get.

    But, again being the eternal optimist, this all makes her a more important actress than ever and will probably lead, I hope, to an Oscar for another great performance in a better role. She’s in the Stephen Daldry/Tom Hanks 9/11 movie, “Extremely Close, etc” and maybe she’s got a worthy part in that film that sounds Oscar baity and year-end important.

    One thing I’m sure of Viola Davis’ great talent will prevail.

    But Oscar, no. This is the kind of controversy that keeps Academy types AWAY from a movie like this.
    Especially since they all, let’s face it, have maids.

    Too too bad, and yes, this is another of Sasha’s great all-time articles, and all perspectives are served.

  80. I saw this coming a mile off. And it makes me REALLY not want to see this film. I, a writer who applauds roles for women and women of color, and regularly covers them on my TV show and in my Oscar Blog, was NOT invited to see this.

    I guess they thought I wouldn’t like it, and wouldn’t respect the”Embargo.” and that’s probably a “yes” to both points.

    Now I REALLY don’t want to see it.

    And this is exactly who the Academy will react to a film that is this controversial and clearly not supported by the black community.

    And it’s death to Oscar nominations. So…Viola and Ms. Spenser… I don’t think have a hope in heck now…

    But the only upside of this that I can see coming Viola Davis’ way is that she, and her immense talent, is now the focus of a national conversation, about well, her deserving talent. She’s becoming an emblem, a Natiion Symbol ~ of uber-talented African-American actresses – who don’t deserve the roles they DO get.

    But, again being the eternal optimist, this all makes her a more important actress than ever and will probably lead, I hope, to an Oscar for another great performance in a better role. She’s in the Stephen Daldry/Tom Hanks 9/11 movie, “Extremely Close, etc” and maybe she’s got a worthy part in that film that sounds Oscar baity and year-end important.

    One thing I’m sure of Viola Davis’ great talent will prevail.

    But Oscar, no. This is the kind of controversy that keeps Academy types AWAY from a movie like this.
    Especially since they all, let’s face it, have maids.

    Too too bad, and yes, this is another of Sasha’s great all-time articles, and all perspectives are served.

  81. “And it’s racially selective.” That’s a very accurate description.

    Ryan, I couldn’t get past the first few sentences either. Juxtaposing the voice of Viola Davis, who possesses innate dignity, over such writing is just sad. Davis deserves a huge bonus for all her heavy-lifting.

  82. “And it’s racially selective.” That’s a very accurate description.

    Ryan, I couldn’t get past the first few sentences either. Juxtaposing the voice of Viola Davis, who possesses innate dignity, over such writing is just sad. Davis deserves a huge bonus for all her heavy-lifting.

  83. alan of montreal

    Wish you had called out Sam on his homophobic rant–never thought a Tea Party type would be trolling around here. As an Asian, though, I was a little troubled by your emphasis on the threat of Asian women to counter his earlier argument about “black privilege.” I know that your intention wasn’t for your emphasis to be taken literally, but ignorant bigots such as Sam will read it as “God’s” truth, so the ironic effect is then lost and a whole new excuse for racism against another group is thus born. We certainly don’t need to feed into his tired angry white man schtick, now, do we?

  84. alan of montreal

    Wish you had called out Sam on his homophobic rant–never thought a Tea Party type would be trolling around here. As an Asian, though, I was a little troubled by your emphasis on the threat of Asian women to counter his earlier argument about “black privilege.” I know that your intention wasn’t for your emphasis to be taken literally, but ignorant bigots such as Sam will read it as “God’s” truth, so the ironic effect is then lost and a whole new excuse for racism against another group is thus born. We certainly don’t need to feed into his tired angry white man schtick, now, do we?

  85. “Juxtaposing the voice of Viola Davis, who possesses innate dignity, over such writing is just sad.”

    That’s the thing, isn’t it, dela? We want so much better for her. Just like Melissa Harris Perry said at the end of her segment with Lawrence O’Donnell: “Wish we could see Viola Davis’ exquisite acting projected onto the type of characters she deserves.”

    flipping through channels night before last, I saw 3 minutes of the odious Jay Leno — never watch him, but stopped just because Viola Davis was his guest. She was right in the middle of saying how friends of hers had been up in her face, disappointed that she had taken a role of a maid in this day and age. Davis looked sincerely deflated but doggedly proud at the same time, defending her choice by saying the movie was obviously touching a lot of people. I wouldn’t argue with that, but it still hurts to see her put in the position of making excuses for the upside-down structure of the story.

    I wish her the very best and would love to see her holding an Oscar. It’s not her fault that these are the only featured roles being written for black women. And watching her resigned acceptance of the hand she’s been dealt, and her determination to make the best of paltry circumstances might actually enhance the feelings we have for her character and this performance. The look in her eyes of plucky acquiescence, phasing from doubt to self-assurance in clips from the movie, is the same indomitable attitude she had on the Tonight Show.

    (hey, dela, sorry if you got caught in the crossfire when I was thrashing around this afternoon. Your comment sparked in me some strong feelings, but you know none of my sputtering was directed at you. Just inspired by you, that’s all.)

  86. “Juxtaposing the voice of Viola Davis, who possesses innate dignity, over such writing is just sad.”

    That’s the thing, isn’t it, dela? We want so much better for her. Just like Melissa Harris Perry said at the end of her segment with Lawrence O’Donnell: “Wish we could see Viola Davis’ exquisite acting projected onto the type of characters she deserves.”

    flipping through channels night before last, I saw 3 minutes of the odious Jay Leno — never watch him, but stopped just because Viola Davis was his guest. She was right in the middle of saying how friends of hers had been up in her face, disappointed that she had taken a role of a maid in this day and age. Davis looked sincerely deflated but doggedly proud at the same time, defending her choice by saying the movie was obviously touching a lot of people. I wouldn’t argue with that, but it still hurts to see her put in the position of making excuses for the upside-down structure of the story.

    I wish her the very best and would love to see her holding an Oscar. It’s not her fault that these are the only featured roles being written for black women. And watching her resigned acceptance of the hand she’s been dealt, and her determination to make the best of paltry circumstances might actually enhance the feelings we have for her character and this performance. The look in her eyes of plucky acquiescence, phasing from doubt to self-assurance in clips from the movie, is the same indomitable attitude she had on the Tonight Show.

    (hey, dela, sorry if you got caught in the crossfire when I was thrashing around this afternoon. Your comment sparked in me some strong feelings, but you know none of my sputtering was directed at you. Just inspired by you, that’s all.)

  87. (Ryan, thanks for all the statistics and taking the time to do the research.)

    A video connecting The Help with today’s Real Help, 50 years later:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RyEGeZmAn8
    Meet Today’s Help

    http://jezebel.com/5796719/amy-poehler-dedicates-time-100-acceptance-speech-to-nannies-of-the-world
    Amy Poehler’s Awesome Time 100 Acceptance Speech acknowledging the work of the women who allow her to do the work that she wants

  88. (Ryan, thanks for all the statistics and taking the time to do the research.)

    A video connecting The Help with today’s Real Help, 50 years later:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RyEGeZmAn8
    Meet Today’s Help

    http://jezebel.com/5796719/amy-poehler-dedicates-time-100-acceptance-speech-to-nannies-of-the-world
    Amy Poehler’s Awesome Time 100 Acceptance Speech acknowledging the work of the women who allow her to do the work that she wants

  89. http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/08/why_im_just_saying_no_to_the_help.html
    Why I’m Just Saying No to ‘The Help’ and Its Historical Whitewash

    The complete op-ed is now on Entertainment Weekly’s website:
    http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20516492,00.html

    Guest Opinion
    The Truth about the Civil Rights Era
    by Martha Southgate
    Aug 08, 2011

    Comments 102

    I resisted the fictional and soon-to-be cinematic juggernaut that is The Help for quite some time. In an otherwise extremely positive review in 2009, EW summed up my feelings quite well: ”The backstory is cringeworthy: A young, white first-time author — inspired by her own childhood relationship with her family maid in Jackson, Miss. — sets out to write a novel from the point of view of black maids in the midst of the civil rights era.” Cringeworthy indeed. Further, the plot of the book itself — young white woman encourages black housekeepers to tell their truth through the vehicle of a book the white woman writes — I found both implausible and condescending to those maids. An oral history of black maids published in 1962? I don’t think so. I’m acquainted with intelligent readers — both black and white — who enjoyed the book. I also greatly respect the talented actresses in the film who have proclaimed their affection for it. But I still couldn’t get on board. When I took a closer look at what Kathryn Stockett hath wrought, I didn’t much like what I saw — but The Help is only a symptom, not the disease.

    There have been thousands of words written about Stockett’s skills, her portrayal of the black women versus the white women, her right to tell this story at all. I won’t rehash those arguments, except to say that I found the novel fast-paced but highly problematic. Even more troubling, though, is how the structure of narratives like The Help underscores the failure of pop culture to acknowledge a central truth: Within the civil rights movement, white people were the help.

    The architects, visionaries, prime movers, and most of the on-the-ground laborers of the civil rights movement were African-American. Many white Americans stood beside them, and some even died beside them, but it was not their fight — and more important, it was not their idea.

    Implicit in The Help and a number of other popular works that deal with the civil rights era is the notion that a white character is somehow crucial or even necessary to tell this particular tale of black liberation. What’s more, to imply that what the maids Aibileen and Minny are working against is simply a refusal on everyone’s part to believe that ”we’re all the same underneath” is to simplify the horrors of Jim Crow to a truly damaging degree.

    This isn’t the first time the civil rights movement has been framed this way fictionally, especially on film. Most Hollywood civil rights movies feature white characters in central, sometimes nearly solo, roles. My favorite (not!) is Alan Parker’s Mississippi Burning, which gives us two white FBI agents as heroes of the movement. FBI agents! Given that J. Edgar Hoover did everything short of shoot Martin Luther King Jr. himself in order to damage or discredit the movement, that goes from troubling to appalling.

    Why is it ever thus? Suffice it to say that these stories are more likely to get the green light and to have more popular appeal (and often acclaim) if they have white characters up front. That’s a shame. The continued impulse to reduce the black women and men of the civil rights movement to bit players in the most extraordinary step toward justice that this nation has ever known is infuriating, to say the least. Minny and Aibileen are heroines, but they didn’t need Skeeter to guide them to the light. They fought their way out of the darkness on their own — and they brought the nation with them.

    ·Southgate’s fourth novel, The Taste of Salt, will be published in September.

    Originally posted Aug 08, 2011
    Published in issue #1167 Aug 12, 2011

  90. http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/08/why_im_just_saying_no_to_the_help.html
    Why I’m Just Saying No to ‘The Help’ and Its Historical Whitewash

    The complete op-ed is now on Entertainment Weekly’s website:
    http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20516492,00.html

    Guest Opinion
    The Truth about the Civil Rights Era
    by Martha Southgate
    Aug 08, 2011

    Comments 102

    I resisted the fictional and soon-to-be cinematic juggernaut that is The Help for quite some time. In an otherwise extremely positive review in 2009, EW summed up my feelings quite well: ”The backstory is cringeworthy: A young, white first-time author — inspired by her own childhood relationship with her family maid in Jackson, Miss. — sets out to write a novel from the point of view of black maids in the midst of the civil rights era.” Cringeworthy indeed. Further, the plot of the book itself — young white woman encourages black housekeepers to tell their truth through the vehicle of a book the white woman writes — I found both implausible and condescending to those maids. An oral history of black maids published in 1962? I don’t think so. I’m acquainted with intelligent readers — both black and white — who enjoyed the book. I also greatly respect the talented actresses in the film who have proclaimed their affection for it. But I still couldn’t get on board. When I took a closer look at what Kathryn Stockett hath wrought, I didn’t much like what I saw — but The Help is only a symptom, not the disease.

    There have been thousands of words written about Stockett’s skills, her portrayal of the black women versus the white women, her right to tell this story at all. I won’t rehash those arguments, except to say that I found the novel fast-paced but highly problematic. Even more troubling, though, is how the structure of narratives like The Help underscores the failure of pop culture to acknowledge a central truth: Within the civil rights movement, white people were the help.

    The architects, visionaries, prime movers, and most of the on-the-ground laborers of the civil rights movement were African-American. Many white Americans stood beside them, and some even died beside them, but it was not their fight — and more important, it was not their idea.

    Implicit in The Help and a number of other popular works that deal with the civil rights era is the notion that a white character is somehow crucial or even necessary to tell this particular tale of black liberation. What’s more, to imply that what the maids Aibileen and Minny are working against is simply a refusal on everyone’s part to believe that ”we’re all the same underneath” is to simplify the horrors of Jim Crow to a truly damaging degree.

    This isn’t the first time the civil rights movement has been framed this way fictionally, especially on film. Most Hollywood civil rights movies feature white characters in central, sometimes nearly solo, roles. My favorite (not!) is Alan Parker’s Mississippi Burning, which gives us two white FBI agents as heroes of the movement. FBI agents! Given that J. Edgar Hoover did everything short of shoot Martin Luther King Jr. himself in order to damage or discredit the movement, that goes from troubling to appalling.

    Why is it ever thus? Suffice it to say that these stories are more likely to get the green light and to have more popular appeal (and often acclaim) if they have white characters up front. That’s a shame. The continued impulse to reduce the black women and men of the civil rights movement to bit players in the most extraordinary step toward justice that this nation has ever known is infuriating, to say the least. Minny and Aibileen are heroines, but they didn’t need Skeeter to guide them to the light. They fought their way out of the darkness on their own — and they brought the nation with them.

    ·Southgate’s fourth novel, The Taste of Salt, will be published in September.

    Originally posted Aug 08, 2011
    Published in issue #1167 Aug 12, 2011

  91. Ligaya, thank YOU for your research, as well.

    Glad I’m up at 2 a.m. to see your comments — because they were briefly caught in the spam filter, tagged for suspicious multiple links ;-)

    Really appreciate you sharing your personal story too — because that’s what this comes down to for so many of us: We have to trust our own heart to determine whether or not a movie like this feels right or feels very wrong to us.

    And it’s not really a matter of trying to convince anyone else to see it the way we do — because we can each of us only judge it from our own personal perspectives.

    The Help stirred up mixed feelings for Sasha, and did for me too. I was groping around trying to decide how to I wanted to react — and I was grateful to have the guidance and factual backup of people for whom this subject has deeper meanings than I can personally access. It really helps me get a handle on it to listen to smart people weigh in with their own individual intimate reactions — People whose heritage gives them a lot more authority to justify or disapprove than I have any right to assume.

    So all these links you provide have added a lot to the discussion. (right now I’m too sleepy to click and explore them all — but it’ll be some great reading to wake up in the morning! thanks!)

  92. Ligaya, thank YOU for your research, as well.

    Glad I’m up at 2 a.m. to see your comments — because they were briefly caught in the spam filter, tagged for suspicious multiple links ;-)

    Really appreciate you sharing your personal story too — because that’s what this comes down to for so many of us: We have to trust our own heart to determine whether or not a movie like this feels right or feels very wrong to us.

    And it’s not really a matter of trying to convince anyone else to see it the way we do — because we can each of us only judge it from our own personal perspectives.

    The Help stirred up mixed feelings for Sasha, and did for me too. I was groping around trying to decide how to I wanted to react — and I was grateful to have the guidance and factual backup of people for whom this subject has deeper meanings than I can personally access. It really helps me get a handle on it to listen to smart people weigh in with their own individual intimate reactions — People whose heritage gives them a lot more authority to justify or disapprove than I have any right to assume.

    So all these links you provide have added a lot to the discussion. (right now I’m too sleepy to click and explore them all — but it’ll be some great reading to wake up in the morning! thanks!)

  93. And then I see Allison Janey, also an actress of tremendous intelligence, and of course, white, who plays Emma Stone’s mother in this movie on Kathie Lee and Hoda this morning, all three of them saying the words “this wonderful movie” over and over again and acting like absolutely nothing is wrong with the movie. And OF COURSE, neither Kathie Lee or Hoda asked any hard questions of Ms. Janey, either.

    You’d think the movie was an adorable hit, and all about a gril , Emma Stone, who wants to be a writer, and her mother, Janey, who wants her to be a housewife.

    Sheesh! And no mention was made at all about Viola Davis. None. Nada. Zip.

  94. And then I see Allison Janey, also an actress of tremendous intelligence, and of course, white, who plays Emma Stone’s mother in this movie on Kathie Lee and Hoda this morning, all three of them saying the words “this wonderful movie” over and over again and acting like absolutely nothing is wrong with the movie. And OF COURSE, neither Kathie Lee or Hoda asked any hard questions of Ms. Janey, either.

    You’d think the movie was an adorable hit, and all about a gril , Emma Stone, who wants to be a writer, and her mother, Janey, who wants her to be a housewife.

    Sheesh! And no mention was made at all about Viola Davis. None. Nada. Zip.

  95. Bryce H.

    Well, what is Janney supposed to do then? Bitch about her latest movie opening this weekend so that people won’t see it?
    Seriously dumb criticism.

  96. Bryce H.

    Well, what is Janney supposed to do then? Bitch about her latest movie opening this weekend so that people won’t see it?
    Seriously dumb criticism.

  97. Gentle Benj

    I don’t have stats for that. I don’t need them. I have my eyes. I have my personal common-sense anecdotal evidence.

    That must be comfortable.

  98. Gentle Benj

    I don’t have stats for that. I don’t need them. I have my eyes. I have my personal common-sense anecdotal evidence.

    That must be comfortable.

  99. ^
    that’s your counterargument?
    what’s your position on poverty’s impact on society vs. this wild-eyed “destruction of the nuclear family” leading to the downfall of civilization bullshit?

    which do you think is a more significant issue? feel free to use your own eyes, if that’s not too uncomfortable

  100. ^
    that’s your counterargument?
    what’s your position on poverty’s impact on society vs. this wild-eyed “destruction of the nuclear family” leading to the downfall of civilization bullshit?

    which do you think is a more significant issue? feel free to use your own eyes, if that’s not too uncomfortable

  101. @Bryce H: Alison Janney could have done the right thing – like her West Wing character. She would graciously thank her hosts for their praise and acknowledgment of her supporting performance, then point out that the main actors were Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone who’ve been (as far as I know) universally praised for their powerhouse performances – both by those who love/hate the film.

    That Janney didn’t acknowledge Davis and Spencer leaves me no other recourse than to speculate that she was too excited and inexperienced at this press/interview thing (doubtful), unconsciously racist by default (one of the prevailing dynamics of our society), being unprofessional and/or niggardly (everybody probably knows – but as in “stingy,” no relation to N-word).

  102. @Bryce H: Alison Janney could have done the right thing – like her West Wing character. She would graciously thank her hosts for their praise and acknowledgment of her supporting performance, then point out that the main actors were Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone who’ve been (as far as I know) universally praised for their powerhouse performances – both by those who love/hate the film.

    That Janney didn’t acknowledge Davis and Spencer leaves me no other recourse than to speculate that she was too excited and inexperienced at this press/interview thing (doubtful), unconsciously racist by default (one of the prevailing dynamics of our society), being unprofessional and/or niggardly (everybody probably knows – but as in “stingy,” no relation to N-word).

  103. vanessa

    I really want to know why people think any black person should support this film? Merely because there are black people in it?

    Do people not get that the woman who wrote the book has been accused of stealing A BLACK MAID’S STORY? Kathryn Stockett has made millions off a black woman who apparently gave her no permission and has not seen a dime. The studio will now make a shitload of money again off the story of a BLACK WOMAN who will get absolutely nothing for it, it was basically STOLEN from her and toted as fiction when it in fact – isn’t. This is black exploitation at it’s absolute worst. White people using black people for their financial gain while the black person gets nothing.

    I’m not even going to go into how irresponsible the film is historically.

  104. vanessa

    I really want to know why people think any black person should support this film? Merely because there are black people in it?

    Do people not get that the woman who wrote the book has been accused of stealing A BLACK MAID’S STORY? Kathryn Stockett has made millions off a black woman who apparently gave her no permission and has not seen a dime. The studio will now make a shitload of money again off the story of a BLACK WOMAN who will get absolutely nothing for it, it was basically STOLEN from her and toted as fiction when it in fact – isn’t. This is black exploitation at it’s absolute worst. White people using black people for their financial gain while the black person gets nothing.

    I’m not even going to go into how irresponsible the film is historically.

  105. Alison Janney acted the HELL out of her role – perfectly, the right balance, not a false note (at least not to my non-Southern eyes)..Her big scene with Emma Stone was one of those times that I cried even when I was determined not to be moved by The Help.

    The Help was so successfully manipulative that even *I* had my Booker T. Washington moment. In the scene leading up to Janney/Stone’s big scene (I don’t remember that in the book, btw), I/the audience’s sympathy is with poor Mrs. Phelan (who’s not ACTIVELY racist – just going along with things the way they were). Instead, to my astonishment – even as my head was saying one thing, my heart was being manipulated in a different direction. My anger was being misdirected and manipulated at the UPPITY NEGRO. Janney/Mrs. Phelan couldn’t help it, she was between a rock and a hard place. This is one of the few instances when the book is better than the movie, drawing the scene out and having characters with complex motivations.

    At the end, everything is all tied up in a neat little package, everything is restored and honor is once again in the house. BUT…BUT…this is counter to all viisual evidence (photos and movies), and first-hand testimonies (oral and written) that the Southern Confederacy and its Jim Crow legacy waged a vicious war against the Civil Rights Movement – where white men were so proud of lynching black men that photos were turned in postcards.

  106. Alison Janney acted the HELL out of her role – perfectly, the right balance, not a false note (at least not to my non-Southern eyes)..Her big scene with Emma Stone was one of those times that I cried even when I was determined not to be moved by The Help.

    The Help was so successfully manipulative that even *I* had my Booker T. Washington moment. In the scene leading up to Janney/Stone’s big scene (I don’t remember that in the book, btw), I/the audience’s sympathy is with poor Mrs. Phelan (who’s not ACTIVELY racist – just going along with things the way they were). Instead, to my astonishment – even as my head was saying one thing, my heart was being manipulated in a different direction. My anger was being misdirected and manipulated at the UPPITY NEGRO. Janney/Mrs. Phelan couldn’t help it, she was between a rock and a hard place. This is one of the few instances when the book is better than the movie, drawing the scene out and having characters with complex motivations.

    At the end, everything is all tied up in a neat little package, everything is restored and honor is once again in the house. BUT…BUT…this is counter to all viisual evidence (photos and movies), and first-hand testimonies (oral and written) that the Southern Confederacy and its Jim Crow legacy waged a vicious war against the Civil Rights Movement – where white men were so proud of lynching black men that photos were turned in postcards.

  107. I really hate getting into a firestorm about artisitc expression. I don’t think anyone believed that “The Help” was going to be a cinematic milestone. But what it did accomplish is that it took two very talented women and placed them in the forefront. Viola Davis [who I think is one of the best actors acround] and Octavia Spencer, whom I haven’t seen a great deal of her work.

    I do live in a very multi racial community, actually I live in a community that is bascially black. I’ve lived here for nearly fourteen years and although I know the socio economic issues that the black community faces I can honestly say that life in this community is not much different than it would be if I lived in a white community. We all mow our lawns. We all talk too one another. We all look out for each other’s home. I wished that we could let ourselve evolve so that these discussions about race could finally become historical conversations rather than current.

    When I go to a film and see something like The Help or Kings Speech or The Social Network I’m going to be entertained and maybe be a bit educated. I say “maybe” a bit educated because film is skewed by the writer, then by whomever adapts the work, then by the director, and then by the producers. We don’t even realize that even a costume designer can have a quiet influence on how characters are viewed by an audience. So we need to stop and realize that this is fim and not NYU’s History of Civilization 101.

    Davis and Spencer get a chance to shine, which is rare for talented black actors. We need to applaud them and support their efforts and stop diminishing the work by creating some racial thesis that is used to diminish the piece. I don’t think anyone expected The Help to be or become that standard bearer of enlightenment for anyone. So freakin lets enjoy the film and thank the producers for giving talented women like Viola and Octavia a turn at showing everyone that they got talent.

    Give the race thing a freakin break already.

  108. I really hate getting into a firestorm about artisitc expression. I don’t think anyone believed that “The Help” was going to be a cinematic milestone. But what it did accomplish is that it took two very talented women and placed them in the forefront. Viola Davis [who I think is one of the best actors acround] and Octavia Spencer, whom I haven’t seen a great deal of her work.

    I do live in a very multi racial community, actually I live in a community that is bascially black. I’ve lived here for nearly fourteen years and although I know the socio economic issues that the black community faces I can honestly say that life in this community is not much different than it would be if I lived in a white community. We all mow our lawns. We all talk too one another. We all look out for each other’s home. I wished that we could let ourselve evolve so that these discussions about race could finally become historical conversations rather than current.

    When I go to a film and see something like The Help or Kings Speech or The Social Network I’m going to be entertained and maybe be a bit educated. I say “maybe” a bit educated because film is skewed by the writer, then by whomever adapts the work, then by the director, and then by the producers. We don’t even realize that even a costume designer can have a quiet influence on how characters are viewed by an audience. So we need to stop and realize that this is fim and not NYU’s History of Civilization 101.

    Davis and Spencer get a chance to shine, which is rare for talented black actors. We need to applaud them and support their efforts and stop diminishing the work by creating some racial thesis that is used to diminish the piece. I don’t think anyone expected The Help to be or become that standard bearer of enlightenment for anyone. So freakin lets enjoy the film and thank the producers for giving talented women like Viola and Octavia a turn at showing everyone that they got talent.

    Give the race thing a freakin break already.

  109. christiannnw

    I thought film was only okay, and not ridiculous and blunt in it’s handling of racial issues like in “The Blind Side” (of which i was worrying this film would be just like). I think your review hit it on the head pretty succinctly: that “The Help” isn’t a film so much about civil rights as it is about the role of housemaids in Jackson, Mississippi. But since the film is engaging civil rights issues on at least a very basic level, it purveys a very clean and tidy depiction of that era that lets viewers (especially white ones) congratulate themselves since they’re not, or at least aren’t now, complicit in what they’re watching onscreen; the film chooses not to challenge racial issues and stereotypes as that would be too uncomfortable (see: unenjoyable) for most viewers.

    I also thought cutting the dramatic parts of the film with potty humor (literally) felt widely inappropriate considering the serious nature of the subject matter. I’m all for humorous levity in the middle of overbearing drama, but was “shit in pie” REALLY the best the film could cull from the novel? And Bryce Dallas Howard was another critical weakness, all smug over-emoting and shrill hysterics; i’m sure that was not an actual character i was watching on screen as it was Howard trying to draw attention to herself in the most desperate and uncomfortable way to watch possible.

    The acting was certainly the best part of the film, and as great as I thought Viola Davis was, Jessica Chastain was easily my favorite of the women. I love seeing an actress going dumb blonde and ditzy yet still expressing a real heart and depth of character; it’s a performance style that most people disregard since it isn’t grounded in the “dramatic acting” pop culture has come to associate with great acting, but I actually think the charisma and comedic timing required for a character like Celia makes it very difficult. Her companionship with Minny (Octavia Spencer, another highlight for me) was extremely heartfelt and genuine, and made an otherwise unremarkable film a worthwhile sit through.

  110. christiannnw

    I thought film was only okay, and not ridiculous and blunt in it’s handling of racial issues like in “The Blind Side” (of which i was worrying this film would be just like). I think your review hit it on the head pretty succinctly: that “The Help” isn’t a film so much about civil rights as it is about the role of housemaids in Jackson, Mississippi. But since the film is engaging civil rights issues on at least a very basic level, it purveys a very clean and tidy depiction of that era that lets viewers (especially white ones) congratulate themselves since they’re not, or at least aren’t now, complicit in what they’re watching onscreen; the film chooses not to challenge racial issues and stereotypes as that would be too uncomfortable (see: unenjoyable) for most viewers.

    I also thought cutting the dramatic parts of the film with potty humor (literally) felt widely inappropriate considering the serious nature of the subject matter. I’m all for humorous levity in the middle of overbearing drama, but was “shit in pie” REALLY the best the film could cull from the novel? And Bryce Dallas Howard was another critical weakness, all smug over-emoting and shrill hysterics; i’m sure that was not an actual character i was watching on screen as it was Howard trying to draw attention to herself in the most desperate and uncomfortable way to watch possible.

    The acting was certainly the best part of the film, and as great as I thought Viola Davis was, Jessica Chastain was easily my favorite of the women. I love seeing an actress going dumb blonde and ditzy yet still expressing a real heart and depth of character; it’s a performance style that most people disregard since it isn’t grounded in the “dramatic acting” pop culture has come to associate with great acting, but I actually think the charisma and comedic timing required for a character like Celia makes it very difficult. Her companionship with Minny (Octavia Spencer, another highlight for me) was extremely heartfelt and genuine, and made an otherwise unremarkable film a worthwhile sit through.

  111. “I/the audience’s sympathy is with poor Mrs. Phelan (who’s not ACTIVELY racist – just going along with things the way they were). Instead, to my astonishment – even as my head was saying one thing, my heart was being manipulated in a different direction. My anger was being misdirected and manipulated at the UPPITY NEGRO. Janney/Mrs. Phelan couldn’t help it, she was between a rock and a hard place. This is one of the few instances when the book is better than the movie, drawing the scene out and having characters with complex motivations.”

    -Disagree: This is one spot where the film improves upon the book. In the book, one might be lead to understand Charlotte’s reaction to being spat on in front of the guests. In the film, she merely capitulates to the pressure of her racist friends. True, she is not “actively racist”, but Charlotte’s actions in the film are cold and unworthy of our sympathy.

  112. “I/the audience’s sympathy is with poor Mrs. Phelan (who’s not ACTIVELY racist – just going along with things the way they were). Instead, to my astonishment – even as my head was saying one thing, my heart was being manipulated in a different direction. My anger was being misdirected and manipulated at the UPPITY NEGRO. Janney/Mrs. Phelan couldn’t help it, she was between a rock and a hard place. This is one of the few instances when the book is better than the movie, drawing the scene out and having characters with complex motivations.”

    -Disagree: This is one spot where the film improves upon the book. In the book, one might be lead to understand Charlotte’s reaction to being spat on in front of the guests. In the film, she merely capitulates to the pressure of her racist friends. True, she is not “actively racist”, but Charlotte’s actions in the film are cold and unworthy of our sympathy.

  113. I went to this movie without reading the book. My teenage daughter did read the book, and really wanted to see the movie. So, I took her. I thought the movie was excellent! Superb performances by Davis, Spencer, and Chastain and the entire cast, for that matter. I love movies, and it was just a really good movie. After seeing it, I started looking on line to see what kind of Oscar buzz it might be getting, because it deserves it, and I came across all of the controversy it is getting. I do not feel I am educated enough to engage in debate about this, but I feel the people who are against this film are misguided, and I am truly angered that because of them the Oscar chances for Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer could be put in danger makes me want to try and ruin their career goal chances!! Ugh!! The last thing I would like to say is how I felt throughout the movie. I was, at times, very angry at how the white families treated these beautiful, amazing women who were doing what they should have been doing themselves, and I was embarassed to be white! My daughter and I discussed on the way home how mortifying to think that it could have been possible had we lived back then that our parents or grandparents may have been racist as such. Horrible to think about, but we must so that no matter what, if we are not aware of what has happened in the past and commit ourselves to not allow it again then we too, could be complacent perpetuaters of that very thing. I just felt like I should post this.

  114. I went to this movie without reading the book. My teenage daughter did read the book, and really wanted to see the movie. So, I took her. I thought the movie was excellent! Superb performances by Davis, Spencer, and Chastain and the entire cast, for that matter. I love movies, and it was just a really good movie. After seeing it, I started looking on line to see what kind of Oscar buzz it might be getting, because it deserves it, and I came across all of the controversy it is getting. I do not feel I am educated enough to engage in debate about this, but I feel the people who are against this film are misguided, and I am truly angered that because of them the Oscar chances for Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer could be put in danger makes me want to try and ruin their career goal chances!! Ugh!! The last thing I would like to say is how I felt throughout the movie. I was, at times, very angry at how the white families treated these beautiful, amazing women who were doing what they should have been doing themselves, and I was embarassed to be white! My daughter and I discussed on the way home how mortifying to think that it could have been possible had we lived back then that our parents or grandparents may have been racist as such. Horrible to think about, but we must so that no matter what, if we are not aware of what has happened in the past and commit ourselves to not allow it again then we too, could be complacent perpetuaters of that very thing. I just felt like I should post this.

  115. I agree, this is definitely entertainment (later when I have time, I’ll post what’s wrong with that in this case) – made to appeal to the broadest consumers and get that CHA CHING up – Stockett’s wide book-club fan base (mostly white), readers (mostly women), much smaller black/other womeh of color readers. Like the Blind Side, its long legs will bring in the skeptics, curious and men. Disney is planning a slow rollout overseas starting later this month.

    Print and tv spots are targeted to women’s magazines and tv shows like Home and Garden TV (I saw one yesterday).

    “A survey of 1,000 moviegoers by online ticketing service Fandango found that 77% of those interested in seeing The Help had read the book, while 95% reported that the film’s surprising comic relief makes them more interested in seeing the film. And nearly 70% said they were looking forward to seeing a summer movie with substance. Roughly 78% were over the age of 25.” (The Hollywood Reporter)

    Women want something more serious than comic book heroes. White women are eager to feel good and laugh, and sigh and say” boy, I’m really glad racism is over, and that we live in a post-racial society now that we have one black president among all those who preceded him – notwithstanding all the racist insults directed at him. And I don’t have to feel bad about any of that or any responsibility (btw, different from shame) about what’s happening today because it’s all over.”

    MORE CHA-CHING:

    With income from DVD sales/rentals going down, studios are looking for a new revenue source – kids’ tie-ins have always been around, but Women Shopping! Think of all the different products and ‘lines’ you could sell – infinite and guaranteed to go out of style every few months.

    http://www.hsn.com/the-help/_c-he_xc.aspx?rid=2234&prev=hp
    A collection inspired by the movie

  116. I agree, this is definitely entertainment (later when I have time, I’ll post what’s wrong with that in this case) – made to appeal to the broadest consumers and get that CHA CHING up – Stockett’s wide book-club fan base (mostly white), readers (mostly women), much smaller black/other womeh of color readers. Like the Blind Side, its long legs will bring in the skeptics, curious and men. Disney is planning a slow rollout overseas starting later this month.

    Print and tv spots are targeted to women’s magazines and tv shows like Home and Garden TV (I saw one yesterday).

    “A survey of 1,000 moviegoers by online ticketing service Fandango found that 77% of those interested in seeing The Help had read the book, while 95% reported that the film’s surprising comic relief makes them more interested in seeing the film. And nearly 70% said they were looking forward to seeing a summer movie with substance. Roughly 78% were over the age of 25.” (The Hollywood Reporter)

    Women want something more serious than comic book heroes. White women are eager to feel good and laugh, and sigh and say” boy, I’m really glad racism is over, and that we live in a post-racial society now that we have one black president among all those who preceded him – notwithstanding all the racist insults directed at him. And I don’t have to feel bad about any of that or any responsibility (btw, different from shame) about what’s happening today because it’s all over.”

    MORE CHA-CHING:

    With income from DVD sales/rentals going down, studios are looking for a new revenue source – kids’ tie-ins have always been around, but Women Shopping! Think of all the different products and ‘lines’ you could sell – infinite and guaranteed to go out of style every few months.

    http://www.hsn.com/the-help/_c-he_xc.aspx?rid=2234&prev=hp
    A collection inspired by the movie

  117. joeyhegele

    File this under WTF! According to IMDB, director Tate Taylor kept a calendar of the actresses’ menstruation periods so he would know who would be hormonal.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1454029/trivia

  118. joeyhegele

    File this under WTF! According to IMDB, director Tate Taylor kept a calendar of the actresses’ menstruation periods so he would know who would be hormonal.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1454029/trivia

  119. @Pat: I think you’re misreading my post, or more likely I wasn’t expressing myself clearly – for example, I should have put single apostrophes around (‘ACTIVELY’). The tone I was aiming for was sarcasm.

    “poor Mrs. Phelan (who’s not ACTIVELY racist – just going along with things the way they were).”‘

    My opinions are definitely counter to Stockett and those with power in making the fim (please see my posts – easily identifiable with my icon of Maddox Jolie-Pitt sticking his tongue out). :D

  120. @Pat: I think you’re misreading my post, or more likely I wasn’t expressing myself clearly – for example, I should have put single apostrophes around (‘ACTIVELY’). The tone I was aiming for was sarcasm.

    “poor Mrs. Phelan (who’s not ACTIVELY racist – just going along with things the way they were).”‘

    My opinions are definitely counter to Stockett and those with power in making the fim (please see my posts – easily identifiable with my icon of Maddox Jolie-Pitt sticking his tongue out). :D

  121. Also, I’m trying to avoid too many details so I don’t SPOIL it for anyone, so that may lead to my writing in a way that’s not clear to understand.

  122. Also, I’m trying to avoid too many details so I don’t SPOIL it for anyone, so that may lead to my writing in a way that’s not clear to understand.

  123. How depressing is it to see the great multi-award winner Cicely Tyson reduced from playing Miss Jane Pittman to Mammy? Her roles and her characters’ perspectives of the Civil Rights era are decidedly different.

    http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/archives/great_conversation_w_denzel_washington_viola_davis_on_acting_the_industry_m/

    Great Conversation W/ Denzel Washington & Viola Davis On Acting, The Industry & More
    April 2010, New York Times Talk series: please see in Part 1 in particular – Ms. Davis talks about playing a “function” (her example is nurse/doctor) vs. a fully developed character. Also, please see Part 5 about the first role she was offered after her Oscar nomination and integrity, and Denzel talking about an early role he was offered and Sidney Poitier’s advice.

    I believe it was Ryan who referred to this earlier:

    http://www.mediaite.com/tv/melissa-harris-perry-breaks-down-the-help-ahistorical-and-deeply-troubling/
    Melissa Harris Perry Breaks Down The Help: ‘Ahistorical And Deeply Troubling’

    (Harris Perry is a Tulane Univ. professor and film critic for Larry O’Donnell show, she was asked to do a live twitter review of The Help, then review on the show)

    Hollywood doesn’t write or greenlight projects – except for stereotyped tropes including action movies – for people of color, women of color, and women generally unless they’re Emma Stone/Cary Mulligan/Jennifer Lawrence’s age, beauty or sexuality (these actors aren’t particularly associated with sexual roles).

  124. How depressing is it to see the great multi-award winner Cicely Tyson reduced from playing Miss Jane Pittman to Mammy? Her roles and her characters’ perspectives of the Civil Rights era are decidedly different.

    http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/archives/great_conversation_w_denzel_washington_viola_davis_on_acting_the_industry_m/

    Great Conversation W/ Denzel Washington & Viola Davis On Acting, The Industry & More
    April 2010, New York Times Talk series: please see in Part 1 in particular – Ms. Davis talks about playing a “function” (her example is nurse/doctor) vs. a fully developed character. Also, please see Part 5 about the first role she was offered after her Oscar nomination and integrity, and Denzel talking about an early role he was offered and Sidney Poitier’s advice.

    I believe it was Ryan who referred to this earlier:

    http://www.mediaite.com/tv/melissa-harris-perry-breaks-down-the-help-ahistorical-and-deeply-troubling/
    Melissa Harris Perry Breaks Down The Help: ‘Ahistorical And Deeply Troubling’

    (Harris Perry is a Tulane Univ. professor and film critic for Larry O’Donnell show, she was asked to do a live twitter review of The Help, then review on the show)

    Hollywood doesn’t write or greenlight projects – except for stereotyped tropes including action movies – for people of color, women of color, and women generally unless they’re Emma Stone/Cary Mulligan/Jennifer Lawrence’s age, beauty or sexuality (these actors aren’t particularly associated with sexual roles).

  125. (Melissa Harris Perry is a Tulane Univ. professor and film critic for Larry O’Donnell show, she was asked to do a live twitter review of The Help, then review on the show)

    Melissa Harris Perry’s good friend and fellow MSNBC contributor, Goldie Taylor tweeted this yesterday:

    @goldietaylor
    When I was a child, calling any Black mother a “mammy” was enough to get to whipped with a tree trunk.

  126. (Melissa Harris Perry is a Tulane Univ. professor and film critic for Larry O’Donnell show, she was asked to do a live twitter review of The Help, then review on the show)

    Melissa Harris Perry’s good friend and fellow MSNBC contributor, Goldie Taylor tweeted this yesterday:

    @goldietaylor
    When I was a child, calling any Black mother a “mammy” was enough to get to whipped with a tree trunk.

  127. IT IS EFFFING FICTION! Get over it!!!!

    So what if it was not exactly accurate….they never said this movie was based of true things. And I am sick of Black groups flippin their shit every time a movie like this is made. Get over yourselves. Clearly the black women in the film saw nothing wrong with it and felt a passion in making the film. Their performances were great, the movie was great!

    My goodness this blowing up like this is ridiculous. No race is ever happy. Suck it up. That’s life.

  128. IT IS EFFFING FICTION! Get over it!!!!

    So what if it was not exactly accurate….they never said this movie was based of true things. And I am sick of Black groups flippin their shit every time a movie like this is made. Get over yourselves. Clearly the black women in the film saw nothing wrong with it and felt a passion in making the film. Their performances were great, the movie was great!

    My goodness this blowing up like this is ridiculous. No race is ever happy. Suck it up. That’s life.

  129. vanessa

    Oh Jerm, your ignorance too is astounding. Also, apparently it isn’t fiction since the author is being sued for stealing the damn story from a person who actually was a maid and experienced some of the things depicted in the film though on a far larger and more dangerous scale, not the “white washed so white people feel comfortable/good about themselves after seeing it” scale.

  130. vanessa

    Oh Jerm, your ignorance too is astounding. Also, apparently it isn’t fiction since the author is being sued for stealing the damn story from a person who actually was a maid and experienced some of the things depicted in the film though on a far larger and more dangerous scale, not the “white washed so white people feel comfortable/good about themselves after seeing it” scale.

  131. unlikelyhood

    I love reading threads like this. Robert Duvall loved the smell of napalm in the morning, but me, I love the smell of ig’nance.

    I’m a little surprised that what I’m about to say hasn’t yet come up. Have you not noticed that the Best Supporting Actress category tends to be a little, how can I put this nicely, uh, padded? You often get the feeling that they had to scrounge for five nominees with dignity and compelling performances. This category is rarely as crowded as, say, Best Actor. Sasha has written too many times about Hollywood’s institutional sexism for me to recap here. Let’s just say that the roles aren’t usually there and the Academy ain’t gonna nominate a legend in a non-Oscary role (e.g. Sigourney Weaver in Avatar).

    Just look back at the last few years. Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler? Ruby Dee in American Gangster? (I know this example is ironic, considering this thread.) Amy Adams in Doubt? Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart? My point is not that these were bad perfs. My point is that they were not exactly banging down the door of Oscar with all their pre-award victories and fulsome across-the-board praise. Basically, Oscar had to go looking for these nominees, instead of the other way around.

    Where am I going with this? Because of the nature of this film, literary, historical, oppression, blah-blah, this is not a case of Oscar going looking. Oh no. This is banging down the door. And in this category, they NEED people banging down the door. I love the smell of a nomination-fest in the morning.

    I also notice that in the last three years, one film (in each year) has accounted for 2/5 of the BSActress noms (Doubt, Up in the Air, The Fighter). Please correct me and say if a Steel Magnolias 2 is coming before New Year’s. If not, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that The Help is this year’s 40%-of-Best-Supporting-Actress-noms film. You heard it here first.

  132. unlikelyhood

    I love reading threads like this. Robert Duvall loved the smell of napalm in the morning, but me, I love the smell of ig’nance.

    I’m a little surprised that what I’m about to say hasn’t yet come up. Have you not noticed that the Best Supporting Actress category tends to be a little, how can I put this nicely, uh, padded? You often get the feeling that they had to scrounge for five nominees with dignity and compelling performances. This category is rarely as crowded as, say, Best Actor. Sasha has written too many times about Hollywood’s institutional sexism for me to recap here. Let’s just say that the roles aren’t usually there and the Academy ain’t gonna nominate a legend in a non-Oscary role (e.g. Sigourney Weaver in Avatar).

    Just look back at the last few years. Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler? Ruby Dee in American Gangster? (I know this example is ironic, considering this thread.) Amy Adams in Doubt? Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart? My point is not that these were bad perfs. My point is that they were not exactly banging down the door of Oscar with all their pre-award victories and fulsome across-the-board praise. Basically, Oscar had to go looking for these nominees, instead of the other way around.

    Where am I going with this? Because of the nature of this film, literary, historical, oppression, blah-blah, this is not a case of Oscar going looking. Oh no. This is banging down the door. And in this category, they NEED people banging down the door. I love the smell of a nomination-fest in the morning.

    I also notice that in the last three years, one film (in each year) has accounted for 2/5 of the BSActress noms (Doubt, Up in the Air, The Fighter). Please correct me and say if a Steel Magnolias 2 is coming before New Year’s. If not, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that The Help is this year’s 40%-of-Best-Supporting-Actress-noms film. You heard it here first.

  133. Thanks Osbourne, because I state facts it’s racist. You never said or proved that anything I said was not true. It’s just simple facts. I am not a racist by any means, but if that’s how you view me then that is your opinion. It still doesn’t change the fact that the black community is once again trying to tear down their own people. It’s really a sad thing to watch. I still wish the ladies in this film the best of luck come Oscar time because they honestly do deserve all of the praise they are getting.

  134. Thanks Osbourne, because I state facts it’s racist. You never said or proved that anything I said was not true. It’s just simple facts. I am not a racist by any means, but if that’s how you view me then that is your opinion. It still doesn’t change the fact that the black community is once again trying to tear down their own people. It’s really a sad thing to watch. I still wish the ladies in this film the best of luck come Oscar time because they honestly do deserve all of the praise they are getting.

  135. Osbourne Cox

    ryan, it’s not my job to educate you or any other racist. You’re going to have to figure this one out for yourself.

  136. Osbourne Cox

    ryan, it’s not my job to educate you or any other racist. You’re going to have to figure this one out for yourself.

  137. Sorry Osbourne, it’s not my job to educate you that just because someone has an opposing view to yours does not mean they are a racist. I’m sorry you feel that people who have a different opinion than yours is a racist. I wish you luck with the apparent chip on your shoulder.

  138. Sorry Osbourne, it’s not my job to educate you that just because someone has an opposing view to yours does not mean they are a racist. I’m sorry you feel that people who have a different opinion than yours is a racist. I wish you luck with the apparent chip on your shoulder.

  139. First, I was born, raised, and currently live in Jackson, MS. Obviously the book and now the film have been hot topics for conversation here for quite some time. I could say a lot about what has been said so far but I’d just like to comment that all the people, blacks and whites, that I have talked with enjoy the film. Unlike the Blind Side, it unarguably includes the perspectives of “the help.” I have witnessed that black Jacksonians are reacting positively to the film. On one hand for them it’s good to see that there are opportunities now that weren’t available in the 60’s, but on the other hand the majority of the African American community in the city still lives in poverty and the opportunities are not reality to them.

    The film should be, and has been by the local community, taken for what it is. Critics from New York and Los Angeles as well as you Ryan are spending too much time trying make something out of the topic that doesn’t really have to do with what the film presents. As a member of a community that was in the film, it is a really good piece of entertainment that appropriately deals with the issues it presents in a way that serves those entertainment purposes. If it’s ok with the blacks that are the sons and daughters of the help, then it’s ok with me too.

  140. First, I was born, raised, and currently live in Jackson, MS. Obviously the book and now the film have been hot topics for conversation here for quite some time. I could say a lot about what has been said so far but I’d just like to comment that all the people, blacks and whites, that I have talked with enjoy the film. Unlike the Blind Side, it unarguably includes the perspectives of “the help.” I have witnessed that black Jacksonians are reacting positively to the film. On one hand for them it’s good to see that there are opportunities now that weren’t available in the 60’s, but on the other hand the majority of the African American community in the city still lives in poverty and the opportunities are not reality to them.

    The film should be, and has been by the local community, taken for what it is. Critics from New York and Los Angeles as well as you Ryan are spending too much time trying make something out of the topic that doesn’t really have to do with what the film presents. As a member of a community that was in the film, it is a really good piece of entertainment that appropriately deals with the issues it presents in a way that serves those entertainment purposes. If it’s ok with the blacks that are the sons and daughters of the help, then it’s ok with me too.

  141. helluvalife

    Dean I agree with your comment “spending too much time trying make something out of the topic that doesn’t really have to do with what the film presents”. It seems that the film is showing how one white woman and several black women work together for the betterment of the black women… with the white individual being in a better position to be the catalyst. That doesn’t necessarily seem to be a bad thing and yet some of the comments I’m reading are treating it as the height of affrontery.

  142. helluvalife

    Dean I agree with your comment “spending too much time trying make something out of the topic that doesn’t really have to do with what the film presents”. It seems that the film is showing how one white woman and several black women work together for the betterment of the black women… with the white individual being in a better position to be the catalyst. That doesn’t necessarily seem to be a bad thing and yet some of the comments I’m reading are treating it as the height of affrontery.

  143. I have to agree Dean and Helluvalife. These women are fighting against prejudice with the tools that they have at their disposal. The white woman who wants to see change happen is a writer. She takes the initiative in wanting to write this story, but in the end the ultimate decision for this book to become a reality lays with the black women of the story. It’s their stories and their courage that lead to the book getting made at all. In the story, this book is these women’s civil rights movement because they know that all the people in the town will read this book since one of their own wrote it. If a Black woman had written the book then probably nobody in the town would have even read it, it’s sad but it’s the truth. These women told their stories to the white woman because they knew that the people they wanted to have read it would end up reading it.

  144. I have to agree Dean and Helluvalife. These women are fighting against prejudice with the tools that they have at their disposal. The white woman who wants to see change happen is a writer. She takes the initiative in wanting to write this story, but in the end the ultimate decision for this book to become a reality lays with the black women of the story. It’s their stories and their courage that lead to the book getting made at all. In the story, this book is these women’s civil rights movement because they know that all the people in the town will read this book since one of their own wrote it. If a Black woman had written the book then probably nobody in the town would have even read it, it’s sad but it’s the truth. These women told their stories to the white woman because they knew that the people they wanted to have read it would end up reading it.

  145. David G

    Sam doesnt have a clue what he is talking about the vast majority of the time. His neo-conservative rhetoric is born out of some weird fantasy world that he has imagined and turned into a bizarre “reality” whereby white, heterosexual people are all “victims” of some left-wing agenda to ruin civilisation. His ramblings scarily sound like Anders Breivik’s paranoid and schizophrenic manifesto. Sam, you should take a read of it, its right up your alley.

  146. David G

    Sam doesnt have a clue what he is talking about the vast majority of the time. His neo-conservative rhetoric is born out of some weird fantasy world that he has imagined and turned into a bizarre “reality” whereby white, heterosexual people are all “victims” of some left-wing agenda to ruin civilisation. His ramblings scarily sound like Anders Breivik’s paranoid and schizophrenic manifesto. Sam, you should take a read of it, its right up your alley.

  147. I just don’t understand the blatant obsession on this site with the white vs. black debate. It is as if there is only one racial conflict that plagues this country and it’s revolved around African-Americans…never mind the fact that my best friend is Persian and is constantly searched and eyed up and down in airports as if she is a terrorist (and also never mind the fact that, if we are talking about minorities in films, that we rarely see an actor or actress of Persian, Asian, or Hispanic descent on screen).

    I haven’t seen The Help, nor is it high on my list to see. I do like Viola Davis and I think she is a very intelligent lady and stellar actress (I tried to get tickets to see her and Denzel in Fences on Broadway but tickets were OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive). I think it’s incredibly hypocritical and very mean-spirited to bash her movie (which she is understandably very proud of) and question her career choices and then nonchalantly praise her performance. Obviously, she must have found the character interesting and complex or she wouldn’t have done it. And I don’t think she would have done the film if she thought the filmmakers were exploiting or trivializing the experiences of black maids in the ’60s (and just to clarify, this is not the first time Davis has played a maid…she played Julianne Moore’s maid in Far From Heaven. But since Davis is now famous she is being unfairly maligned for her roles).

    Someone said earlier that the intelligentsia only like “black” movies if they are uber depressing and tough to watch…maybe not true wholeheartedly, but I think there are some nuggets of truth to that statement. This site was one of many that creamed over Precious–a film, like Crash, that I felt HIGHLY exploited, stereotyped, and grossly exaggerated the black experience. A morbidly obese, pregnant black girl who loves fried chicken and is dying from AIDS which she got from her incestuous father and suffers physical/emotional from her evil mother starts to “find” herself? Come now. I think it’s telling that on 30 Rock Tracey Jordan won an Oscar for starring in a film called Hard to Watch and became a “serious” actor. Genius.

  148. I just don’t understand the blatant obsession on this site with the white vs. black debate. It is as if there is only one racial conflict that plagues this country and it’s revolved around African-Americans…never mind the fact that my best friend is Persian and is constantly searched and eyed up and down in airports as if she is a terrorist (and also never mind the fact that, if we are talking about minorities in films, that we rarely see an actor or actress of Persian, Asian, or Hispanic descent on screen).

    I haven’t seen The Help, nor is it high on my list to see. I do like Viola Davis and I think she is a very intelligent lady and stellar actress (I tried to get tickets to see her and Denzel in Fences on Broadway but tickets were OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive). I think it’s incredibly hypocritical and very mean-spirited to bash her movie (which she is understandably very proud of) and question her career choices and then nonchalantly praise her performance. Obviously, she must have found the character interesting and complex or she wouldn’t have done it. And I don’t think she would have done the film if she thought the filmmakers were exploiting or trivializing the experiences of black maids in the ’60s (and just to clarify, this is not the first time Davis has played a maid…she played Julianne Moore’s maid in Far From Heaven. But since Davis is now famous she is being unfairly maligned for her roles).

    Someone said earlier that the intelligentsia only like “black” movies if they are uber depressing and tough to watch…maybe not true wholeheartedly, but I think there are some nuggets of truth to that statement. This site was one of many that creamed over Precious–a film, like Crash, that I felt HIGHLY exploited, stereotyped, and grossly exaggerated the black experience. A morbidly obese, pregnant black girl who loves fried chicken and is dying from AIDS which she got from her incestuous father and suffers physical/emotional from her evil mother starts to “find” herself? Come now. I think it’s telling that on 30 Rock Tracey Jordan won an Oscar for starring in a film called Hard to Watch and became a “serious” actor. Genius.

  149. @ryan: No – “The white woman who wants to see change happen is a writer. She takes the initiative in wanting to write this story.”

    In the book, it’s the Harper and Row editor who suggests the idea of getting the story from the black maids’ perspective.

    The film makes Skeeter a much more sympathetic character than in the book. In the film, Skeeter says, asks and does things that she doesn’t in the book. And of course, Emma Stone is much prettier (understatement) than Skeeter in the book.

    Skeeter is a young white careerist/opportunist who lies to get her first job. Nothing wrong with that – most people do. What’s wrong is plagiarizing Aibilene’s experience and passing it off as her own – let’s understand that.

    In the book, Aibileen says “no” 3 times under Skeeter’s persistent pressure. Do we realize what it was like then to say “no” to a white woman when there were no other jobs available to us? What it was like to just say “no,” even if we had choices of other jobs? It would have been unthinkable (word?), think of the consequences. It was no brave thing that Skeeter was the ‘catalyst’ for what the black maids would have done on their own anyway in their own way on their own timing. Instead, she was leading these women into dangerous waters. It took a tragedy for the other black maids to join the project besides Aibileen and Minny.

    This link describes the power dynamics of white privilege to ‘beloved’ black maid:

    http://www.beforebarack.com/2011/07/28/sniffing-dirty-laundry-a-true-story-from-“the-help’s”-daughter/

  150. @ryan: No – “The white woman who wants to see change happen is a writer. She takes the initiative in wanting to write this story.”

    In the book, it’s the Harper and Row editor who suggests the idea of getting the story from the black maids’ perspective.

    The film makes Skeeter a much more sympathetic character than in the book. In the film, Skeeter says, asks and does things that she doesn’t in the book. And of course, Emma Stone is much prettier (understatement) than Skeeter in the book.

    Skeeter is a young white careerist/opportunist who lies to get her first job. Nothing wrong with that – most people do. What’s wrong is plagiarizing Aibilene’s experience and passing it off as her own – let’s understand that.

    In the book, Aibileen says “no” 3 times under Skeeter’s persistent pressure. Do we realize what it was like then to say “no” to a white woman when there were no other jobs available to us? What it was like to just say “no,” even if we had choices of other jobs? It would have been unthinkable (word?), think of the consequences. It was no brave thing that Skeeter was the ‘catalyst’ for what the black maids would have done on their own anyway in their own way on their own timing. Instead, she was leading these women into dangerous waters. It took a tragedy for the other black maids to join the project besides Aibileen and Minny.

    This link describes the power dynamics of white privilege to ‘beloved’ black maid:

    http://www.beforebarack.com/2011/07/28/sniffing-dirty-laundry-a-true-story-from-“the-help’s”-daughter/

  151. This site was one of many that creamed over Precious–a film, like Crash, that I felt HIGHLY exploited, stereotyped, and grossly exaggerated the black experience.

    you never saw me creaming over Precious. I said repeatedly that I thought it was lurid and grotesque. Mo’Nique’s Oscar was a given and it would’ve been insane to say otherwise. I’m ready to hope Viola Davis Oscar chances are secure now, as well. I’d be far happier to see Viola win that I was about Mo’Nique.

  152. This site was one of many that creamed over Precious–a film, like Crash, that I felt HIGHLY exploited, stereotyped, and grossly exaggerated the black experience.

    you never saw me creaming over Precious. I said repeatedly that I thought it was lurid and grotesque. Mo’Nique’s Oscar was a given and it would’ve been insane to say otherwise. I’m ready to hope Viola Davis Oscar chances are secure now, as well. I’d be far happier to see Viola win that I was about Mo’Nique.

  153. Jeremy C.

    I’ll have to watch this when it comes to blu ray since it has stirred up a lot of debate.

    I think the response to this film has been divided because there are different ways to watch a movie and also different backgrounds and experiences which inform one’s viewing. Some watch a film passively, often for entertainment purposes, and accept whatever they are shown. Others are critically conscious observers who are more analytical and like to challenge themselves and others by critiquing through an ideological lens or lenses. And some can do both.

  154. Jeremy C.

    I’ll have to watch this when it comes to blu ray since it has stirred up a lot of debate.

    I think the response to this film has been divided because there are different ways to watch a movie and also different backgrounds and experiences which inform one’s viewing. Some watch a film passively, often for entertainment purposes, and accept whatever they are shown. Others are critically conscious observers who are more analytical and like to challenge themselves and others by critiquing through an ideological lens or lenses. And some can do both.

  155. @Aaron: I agree with youjr post, especially on how the debate on The Help – and any issue that’s mainly about the black/white experince and power dynamics – is narrowly defined and confined. It’s as if non-African American blacks (Caribbean, Latin America, Africa), Latinos, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Arab Americans and others don’t exist. We have a role and voices that need to be heard in our multicultural society.

    Of course, African Americans are unique not only in their numbers, but especially their being FORCIBLY brought to the New World under slavery and FORCIBLY slaving for hundreds of years to build the foundation of America. The many horrors are known (except to those who choose to deny them,see seriously flawed films or Segregation Lite films like The Help).

    The only thing I can compare slavery to is the genocide of Native Americans.

  156. @Aaron: I agree with youjr post, especially on how the debate on The Help – and any issue that’s mainly about the black/white experince and power dynamics – is narrowly defined and confined. It’s as if non-African American blacks (Caribbean, Latin America, Africa), Latinos, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Arab Americans and others don’t exist. We have a role and voices that need to be heard in our multicultural society.

    Of course, African Americans are unique not only in their numbers, but especially their being FORCIBLY brought to the New World under slavery and FORCIBLY slaving for hundreds of years to build the foundation of America. The many horrors are known (except to those who choose to deny them,see seriously flawed films or Segregation Lite films like The Help).

    The only thing I can compare slavery to is the genocide of Native Americans.

  157. The Hollywood Reporter says The Help is overperforming and that Friday’s b.o was unexcpectedly close.. Rise of the Apes grossed $7.8 million, with The Help earning $7 million to $7.5 million; Rise of the Apes is still expected #1 for the weekend. THR also said, “Even at $20 million, that would put the The Help’s five-day debut (the pic opened on Wednesday) at a stellar $30 million, better than expected and reflecting strong word of mouth. The movie received a rare A+ CinemaScore and is playing especially well both in African-American communities and upscale cinemas, including the ArcLight in Los Angeles.”

    My analysis of why The Help is playing well in black communities?”

    Immense respect for Viola Davis as an actor and as a person;

    appreciation of Octavia Spencer as a comic actor;

    their overtime work carrying the heavy water defending The Help against criticisms (so much more effective than white actors); I hope they’re paid for every appearance and interview they have to make – AND THEY’D BETTER BE PAID AT LEAST AS MUCH AS THE SUPPORTING ACTORS. Someone said the only thing you can’t talk about in Hollywood is money, i.e., how much you’re being paid. The disparity and inequality is so unfair, you can be the lead or co-lead and still be paid significant quantities less.

    African-Americans are so hungry to see black actors on screen, they’ll watch almost anything that black actors are in (Asian American, Native American, Latinos etc. do this too)

    We watch the movie to support Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer (kind of like voting with our butts in the seats). I have a speculation that if The Help succeeds, most of the success will be credited to Emma Stone and she’ll be inundated with job offers. If The Help succeeds and Viola Davis wins BSA, the accolades will be shared with Emma; and similar to after Viola’s nomination – the first job she was offered (after 7 months) was a Jamaican maid with 18 children, she’ll have to wait for job offers (but now that she’s producing, that may change). If The Help underperforms (unlikely now), the blame will placed on Viola and Octavia.

    Most Important, THEY HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK ;

    Don’t know about the lawsuit and what Abeleen’s charges are;

    the film cleaned up the worst excesses, most egregious, insulting, revolting, repulsive parts of the book;

    the box office has become a race, so people will do repeat viewings and vote with their money (I would have done it anyway – but I did repeat viewings of movies starring Star Wars, Michael Jackson, Angelina Jolie);

    get on the bandwagon, be relevant and in the conversation.

  158. The Hollywood Reporter says The Help is overperforming and that Friday’s b.o was unexcpectedly close.. Rise of the Apes grossed $7.8 million, with The Help earning $7 million to $7.5 million; Rise of the Apes is still expected #1 for the weekend. THR also said, “Even at $20 million, that would put the The Help’s five-day debut (the pic opened on Wednesday) at a stellar $30 million, better than expected and reflecting strong word of mouth. The movie received a rare A+ CinemaScore and is playing especially well both in African-American communities and upscale cinemas, including the ArcLight in Los Angeles.”

    My analysis of why The Help is playing well in black communities?”

    Immense respect for Viola Davis as an actor and as a person;

    appreciation of Octavia Spencer as a comic actor;

    their overtime work carrying the heavy water defending The Help against criticisms (so much more effective than white actors); I hope they’re paid for every appearance and interview they have to make – AND THEY’D BETTER BE PAID AT LEAST AS MUCH AS THE SUPPORTING ACTORS. Someone said the only thing you can’t talk about in Hollywood is money, i.e., how much you’re being paid. The disparity and inequality is so unfair, you can be the lead or co-lead and still be paid significant quantities less.

    African-Americans are so hungry to see black actors on screen, they’ll watch almost anything that black actors are in (Asian American, Native American, Latinos etc. do this too)

    We watch the movie to support Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer (kind of like voting with our butts in the seats). I have a speculation that if The Help succeeds, most of the success will be credited to Emma Stone and she’ll be inundated with job offers. If The Help succeeds and Viola Davis wins BSA, the accolades will be shared with Emma; and similar to after Viola’s nomination – the first job she was offered (after 7 months) was a Jamaican maid with 18 children, she’ll have to wait for job offers (but now that she’s producing, that may change). If The Help underperforms (unlikely now), the blame will placed on Viola and Octavia.

    Most Important, THEY HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK ;

    Don’t know about the lawsuit and what Abeleen’s charges are;

    the film cleaned up the worst excesses, most egregious, insulting, revolting, repulsive parts of the book;

    the box office has become a race, so people will do repeat viewings and vote with their money (I would have done it anyway – but I did repeat viewings of movies starring Star Wars, Michael Jackson, Angelina Jolie);

    get on the bandwagon, be relevant and in the conversation.

  159. Mark F.

    “I have my personal common-sense anecdotal evidence.”

    You remind me of a famous New York film critic who was astonished that Nixon won in 1972 because “everyone I know voted for Mc Govern.” Research clearly shows that children from two parent households, even those in poverty, generally do better than those from single parent households. Of course, there are numerous exceptions.

  160. Mark F.

    “I have my personal common-sense anecdotal evidence.”

    You remind me of a famous New York film critic who was astonished that Nixon won in 1972 because “everyone I know voted for Mc Govern.” Research clearly shows that children from two parent households, even those in poverty, generally do better than those from single parent households. Of course, there are numerous exceptions.

  161. In addition to my earlier post today at 10.01 am, the black community with whom The Help may be popular may not know of the critical debate, the issues, the points being raised, don’t have access (internet, msnbc, etc), may not care, and yes -just want to be entertained.

    It’s been a long time since people have been taught critical thinking. They don’t see why The Help is a big deal because the Civil Rights Era was 50 years ago, Civil Rights History isn’t taught (at least not correctly and soon may not be taught at all) in schools. People, especially young people, take for granted some of the hard-won rights from that time.

    Not to start a “some of my best friends are black thread,” I was hoping to go to a 2nd viewing with a friend and looking forward to getting her feedback. She flat out refused, just like she did the Blind Side – answering “NO” to Dr. Boyce’s question of “Should We See a Film That Promotes Black Stereotypes?”

    She belongs to many national and regional black womens’ and inter-sex organizations where The Help has been a hot topic. She and her friends expressed deep disappointment with the sector of the black commutiny who are supporting this film. But then, they may be in the minority. But then, being in the minority doesn’t mean they are wrong,

  162. In addition to my earlier post today at 10.01 am, the black community with whom The Help may be popular may not know of the critical debate, the issues, the points being raised, don’t have access (internet, msnbc, etc), may not care, and yes -just want to be entertained.

    It’s been a long time since people have been taught critical thinking. They don’t see why The Help is a big deal because the Civil Rights Era was 50 years ago, Civil Rights History isn’t taught (at least not correctly and soon may not be taught at all) in schools. People, especially young people, take for granted some of the hard-won rights from that time.

    Not to start a “some of my best friends are black thread,” I was hoping to go to a 2nd viewing with a friend and looking forward to getting her feedback. She flat out refused, just like she did the Blind Side – answering “NO” to Dr. Boyce’s question of “Should We See a Film That Promotes Black Stereotypes?”

    She belongs to many national and regional black womens’ and inter-sex organizations where The Help has been a hot topic. She and her friends expressed deep disappointment with the sector of the black commutiny who are supporting this film. But then, they may be in the minority. But then, being in the minority doesn’t mean they are wrong,

  163. Whitney

    I CANNOT believe The Help is doing so well at the box office! It is over-performing far beyond expectations. From the Friday estimates, it is looking to make approx $ 21-25 at the weekend box office!
    It is only slightly behind Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Ugh! I can’t believe the controversy and lawsuit did not detract viewership at all! I am very disappointed. I think posting a review would be too potent and provoke too many arguments but the movie did upset me especially considering she allegedly stole the story from Ablene! Ligaya and others, did a good job on shedding light on why this movie is upsetting to people. I expected it to get a mixed reaction and critical acclaim from most of the waspy critics but I didn’t think it would do so well at the box office too. It seems to be a success all-around.

    I think somebody should do a separate entry on Monday discussing the weekend’s box office and how The Help absurdly managed to become a hit despite everything going against it.

  164. Whitney

    I CANNOT believe The Help is doing so well at the box office! It is over-performing far beyond expectations. From the Friday estimates, it is looking to make approx $ 21-25 at the weekend box office!
    It is only slightly behind Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Ugh! I can’t believe the controversy and lawsuit did not detract viewership at all! I am very disappointed. I think posting a review would be too potent and provoke too many arguments but the movie did upset me especially considering she allegedly stole the story from Ablene! Ligaya and others, did a good job on shedding light on why this movie is upsetting to people. I expected it to get a mixed reaction and critical acclaim from most of the waspy critics but I didn’t think it would do so well at the box office too. It seems to be a success all-around.

    I think somebody should do a separate entry on Monday discussing the weekend’s box office and how The Help absurdly managed to become a hit despite everything going against it.

  165. Take some solace, Whitney. Today’s Hollywood Reporter said that Rise of the Planet of the Apes grossed $8.1 million on Friday vs. The Help $7.6 million – although it may be a double-edged sword to boycott it and deny larger grosses. If The Help underperforms (unlikely right now), Viola and Octavia will get the blame – for not bringing in white audiences, whatever. If it overperforms, Emma will get the credit; at most, Viola and Octavia will get some.

    And like it or not, it’s been a looooooooong time since awards have been based on performances and talent. Studio politics, money and campaining was added to that. Now, a movie has to have good box office to be considered for “for your consideration.”

    Monday, boxofficeguru usually puts out an article about the weekend. Either Monday or Tuesday, boxofficeprophets has a roundtable on why a movie succeeded and why another tanked.

  166. Take some solace, Whitney. Today’s Hollywood Reporter said that Rise of the Planet of the Apes grossed $8.1 million on Friday vs. The Help $7.6 million – although it may be a double-edged sword to boycott it and deny larger grosses. If The Help underperforms (unlikely right now), Viola and Octavia will get the blame – for not bringing in white audiences, whatever. If it overperforms, Emma will get the credit; at most, Viola and Octavia will get some.

    And like it or not, it’s been a looooooooong time since awards have been based on performances and talent. Studio politics, money and campaining was added to that. Now, a movie has to have good box office to be considered for “for your consideration.”

    Monday, boxofficeguru usually puts out an article about the weekend. Either Monday or Tuesday, boxofficeprophets has a roundtable on why a movie succeeded and why another tanked.

  167. I don’t remember if the lawsuit was posted before, anyway here it is
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/18/books/18help.html?_r=1

    My description: Author’s brother’s maid filed lawsuit – besides similar names, racial insults like her dark skin being compared to a cockroach was something Ms. Cooper said she found “embarrassing.” The character had a gold tooth & despite the spellings, the 2 names are pronounced the same.

    Aibileen’s grown son died 5 months.before employers’ 1st child was born – closely mirrors death of one of Ms. Cooper’s grown sons from cancer, several months. before the birth of the Stocketts’ 1st child.

  168. I don’t remember if the lawsuit was posted before, anyway here it is
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/18/books/18help.html?_r=1

    My description: Author’s brother’s maid filed lawsuit – besides similar names, racial insults like her dark skin being compared to a cockroach was something Ms. Cooper said she found “embarrassing.” The character had a gold tooth & despite the spellings, the 2 names are pronounced the same.

    Aibileen’s grown son died 5 months.before employers’ 1st child was born – closely mirrors death of one of Ms. Cooper’s grown sons from cancer, several months. before the birth of the Stocketts’ 1st child.

  169. Jezebel is a feminist/political/pop culture blog. Easy to join by Facebook or their method. Access all conversations by clicking on “top stories” or “blog view” to the left of “share;” scroll all the way down & click “all discusscions.” :D

    http://jezebel.com/5767443/black-maid-sues-over-best+selling-novel-the-help

  170. Jezebel is a feminist/political/pop culture blog. Easy to join by Facebook or their method. Access all conversations by clicking on “top stories” or “blog view” to the left of “share;” scroll all the way down & click “all discusscions.” :D

    http://jezebel.com/5767443/black-maid-sues-over-best+selling-novel-the-help

  171. http://insidemovies.ew.com/2011/08/14/the-help-oscar-viola-davis-octavia-spencer/?iid=blogM-1H-LN-Can the ladies of ‘The Help’ score Oscar nods?

    Can the ladies of ‘The Help’ score Oscar nods?

    The fantastic early box office performance for The Help only, well, helps its awards chances. At this point, the movie seems to have all the ingredients for Oscar attention: mostly positive reviews, through-the-roof audience reaction, and just a ***smidgen of controversy***. It seems to me like Emma Stone and Viola Davis should be campaigned as Best Actress while the rest of the strong female cast (including Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, and Sissy Spacek) belongs in the supporting category. Some people have written to me on Twitter suggesting that Davis would stand a better shot in supporting, but the film really feels like her character Aibileen’s story so such a move would feel quite disingenuous.

    While the whole cast is impressive, my hunch is that Davis and Spencer are the best bets at nominations. With the Venice/Telluride/Toronto awards-bait onslaught only days away, I’d argue that Davis and Spencer are the two strongest female contenders from the first eight months of the year.

    Of course Davis and Spencer will both face much tougher competition over the next four months: The Iron Lady‘s Meryl Streep, We Need to Talk About Kevin‘s Tilda Swinton, Carnage‘s Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster, Young Adult‘s Charlize Theron, My Week With Marilyn‘s Michelle Williams, Albert Nobbs‘ Glenn Close, and War Horse‘s Emily Watson are all on their way.

    But after this year’s shut-out of African-American acting nominees, there’s a decent shot next year’s contenders will be more racially diverse.

    But I’m also bracing for a bit of backlash as Davis and Spencer’s Oscar buzz grows. After all, they stand to be nominated for playing maids—just as Gone With the Wind‘s Hattie McDaniel did over 70 years ago. As one of my Twitter followers wrote me the other day: “would be nice if black women could get oscar worthy work for something other than roles w such stereotype baggage attached.” I hear you.

    But what’s worse: a nomination for playing a complex women who happens to be a maid, or no nomination at all?

  172. http://insidemovies.ew.com/2011/08/14/the-help-oscar-viola-davis-octavia-spencer/?iid=blogM-1H-LN-Can the ladies of ‘The Help’ score Oscar nods?

    Can the ladies of ‘The Help’ score Oscar nods?

    The fantastic early box office performance for The Help only, well, helps its awards chances. At this point, the movie seems to have all the ingredients for Oscar attention: mostly positive reviews, through-the-roof audience reaction, and just a ***smidgen of controversy***. It seems to me like Emma Stone and Viola Davis should be campaigned as Best Actress while the rest of the strong female cast (including Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, and Sissy Spacek) belongs in the supporting category. Some people have written to me on Twitter suggesting that Davis would stand a better shot in supporting, but the film really feels like her character Aibileen’s story so such a move would feel quite disingenuous.

    While the whole cast is impressive, my hunch is that Davis and Spencer are the best bets at nominations. With the Venice/Telluride/Toronto awards-bait onslaught only days away, I’d argue that Davis and Spencer are the two strongest female contenders from the first eight months of the year.

    Of course Davis and Spencer will both face much tougher competition over the next four months: The Iron Lady‘s Meryl Streep, We Need to Talk About Kevin‘s Tilda Swinton, Carnage‘s Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster, Young Adult‘s Charlize Theron, My Week With Marilyn‘s Michelle Williams, Albert Nobbs‘ Glenn Close, and War Horse‘s Emily Watson are all on their way.

    But after this year’s shut-out of African-American acting nominees, there’s a decent shot next year’s contenders will be more racially diverse.

    But I’m also bracing for a bit of backlash as Davis and Spencer’s Oscar buzz grows. After all, they stand to be nominated for playing maids—just as Gone With the Wind‘s Hattie McDaniel did over 70 years ago. As one of my Twitter followers wrote me the other day: “would be nice if black women could get oscar worthy work for something other than roles w such stereotype baggage attached.” I hear you.

    But what’s worse: a nomination for playing a complex women who happens to be a maid, or no nomination at all?

  173. “But what’s worse: a nomination for playing a complex women who happens to be a maid, or no nomination at all?”

    (Some would argue, how complex exactly? But I digress.) A nomination, of course, but I don’t think this is Viola Davis’ best performance – Doubt was. I said before I want her to win Best Actress in a film worthy of her talent. I don’t want The Help to be the apex of her film career or the reason she is remembered.

    Aah, this reminds me of the old Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X or NAACP/Black Power debates. Or my experience of my anti-martial law organization’s work being published but without ever mentioning us or giving us credit, The publisher asked us the same question then – wouldn’t you rather have the news be published than not at all? We answered “BOTH,” because that was the truth, and their responsibility as journalists was to print the truth.

    There’s no shame in playing maids per se. In that period and most of the decades after, being a maid was the only job blacks (and now other people of color and immigrants) had and they were the backbone of their families and communities.

    What matters is – are African American actors ghettoized into certain stock stereotypes – maids, sassy ones, hyper-sexyualized whores, asexual mammy-figures, black brutes, hyper-sexualized men, athletes, drug addicts, pimps, etc.?

    Are white actors ghettoized in the same way, or do they have a much wider range of roles for which to audition and better chances to get a part?

    How complex, layered, nuanced are these maid roles – do their characters have an arc? What are the statistics, the breakdown of stereotyped characters to non-stereotyped characters.

    And why do black maids have to be fat and ugly? Viola Davis had to gain 25 pounds plus they padded her. They uglified her too – there’s a beautiful picture on jezebel.com.

    Can we also make movies of teachers, nurses and other black women and men of that era who weren’t domestics? Their stories deserve to be told too.

  174. “But what’s worse: a nomination for playing a complex women who happens to be a maid, or no nomination at all?”

    (Some would argue, how complex exactly? But I digress.) A nomination, of course, but I don’t think this is Viola Davis’ best performance – Doubt was. I said before I want her to win Best Actress in a film worthy of her talent. I don’t want The Help to be the apex of her film career or the reason she is remembered.

    Aah, this reminds me of the old Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X or NAACP/Black Power debates. Or my experience of my anti-martial law organization’s work being published but without ever mentioning us or giving us credit, The publisher asked us the same question then – wouldn’t you rather have the news be published than not at all? We answered “BOTH,” because that was the truth, and their responsibility as journalists was to print the truth.

    There’s no shame in playing maids per se. In that period and most of the decades after, being a maid was the only job blacks (and now other people of color and immigrants) had and they were the backbone of their families and communities.

    What matters is – are African American actors ghettoized into certain stock stereotypes – maids, sassy ones, hyper-sexyualized whores, asexual mammy-figures, black brutes, hyper-sexualized men, athletes, drug addicts, pimps, etc.?

    Are white actors ghettoized in the same way, or do they have a much wider range of roles for which to audition and better chances to get a part?

    How complex, layered, nuanced are these maid roles – do their characters have an arc? What are the statistics, the breakdown of stereotyped characters to non-stereotyped characters.

    And why do black maids have to be fat and ugly? Viola Davis had to gain 25 pounds plus they padded her. They uglified her too – there’s a beautiful picture on jezebel.com.

    Can we also make movies of teachers, nurses and other black women and men of that era who weren’t domestics? Their stories deserve to be told too.

  175. @ Ryan. Sorry, I didn’t mean to generalize everyone’s opinion of Precious. If I remember correctly, Sasha might have been a big fan of the movie–I forgot that you were not impressed. Sorry about that–like you, I never really understood all the heaps of praise that that film received…although Mo’Nique was very, very good and deserved her Oscar.

  176. @ Ryan. Sorry, I didn’t mean to generalize everyone’s opinion of Precious. If I remember correctly, Sasha might have been a big fan of the movie–I forgot that you were not impressed. Sorry about that–like you, I never really understood all the heaps of praise that that film received…although Mo’Nique was very, very good and deserved her Oscar.

  177. that’s ok, Aaron. I wasn’t that outspoken about my doubts. — and in fact when we covered the Spirit Awards I was happy enough for Lee Daniels’ wins there. But there were other movies in its Oscar categories that I felt should have been nominated instead.

    There was no point railing against it though. At some point it felt really wrong not to be happy for Gabby too. The performances were… something to behold, no doubt. The movie overall, though, didn’t impress me at all.

    It’s possible that Sasha’s defense of Gabby and the obvious foregone conclusion of Mo’Nique’s inevitable win gave the impression of strong support. Honestly, we never talked about it privately — I was afraid to bring it up! ha — so I can only speak for myself.

    Kris at In Contention was a huge fan and he really dedicated a lot of hard work toward its Oscar recognition. I saved most of my own snarling for comments I made elsewhere. (sorry, Kris!)

  178. that’s ok, Aaron. I wasn’t that outspoken about my doubts. — and in fact when we covered the Spirit Awards I was happy enough for Lee Daniels’ wins there. But there were other movies in its Oscar categories that I felt should have been nominated instead.

    There was no point railing against it though. At some point it felt really wrong not to be happy for Gabby too. The performances were… something to behold, no doubt. The movie overall, though, didn’t impress me at all.

    It’s possible that Sasha’s defense of Gabby and the obvious foregone conclusion of Mo’Nique’s inevitable win gave the impression of strong support. Honestly, we never talked about it privately — I was afraid to bring it up! ha — so I can only speak for myself.

    Kris at In Contention was a huge fan and he really dedicated a lot of hard work toward its Oscar recognition. I saved most of my own snarling for comments I made elsewhere. (sorry, Kris!)

  179. Brainy Pirate

    You’re being awfully optimistic about Oprah. The way she ruined Beloved and turned Their Eyes Were Watching God into a love story suggests that she’s incapable of addressing these racial issues herself–or at least, she’s incapable of addressing them in ways that might disturb her white audience….

  180. Brainy Pirate

    You’re being awfully optimistic about Oprah. The way she ruined Beloved and turned Their Eyes Were Watching God into a love story suggests that she’s incapable of addressing these racial issues herself–or at least, she’s incapable of addressing them in ways that might disturb her white audience….

  181. @Brainy Pirate: [Oprah is] “incapable of addressing them in ways that might disturb her white audience….” I agree. For a long time, her base has been among a certain demographic of white women (and probably an overlap of Stockett’s fan base). Most readers are women, almost all book clubs are de facto women, and the Oprah imprint sells – The Help is one of the books she blessed.

    I haven’t read or seen Their Eyes Were Watching God,.but reducing it to a love story seems like she was going for more mainstream, commercial success than Beloved.

    I read Beloved and love all of Toni Morisson’s work. I think Oprah putting her money behind it and producing it, making sure that the story was told and brought to the screen was wonderful I think she picked Spielberg to direct, not only because he was a Hollywood powerhouse, but to attract audiences to see Beloved. In my opinion, the acting was outstanding and it’s a movie I’ll revisit.

  182. @Brainy Pirate: [Oprah is] “incapable of addressing them in ways that might disturb her white audience….” I agree. For a long time, her base has been among a certain demographic of white women (and probably an overlap of Stockett’s fan base). Most readers are women, almost all book clubs are de facto women, and the Oprah imprint sells – The Help is one of the books she blessed.

    I haven’t read or seen Their Eyes Were Watching God,.but reducing it to a love story seems like she was going for more mainstream, commercial success than Beloved.

    I read Beloved and love all of Toni Morisson’s work. I think Oprah putting her money behind it and producing it, making sure that the story was told and brought to the screen was wonderful I think she picked Spielberg to direct, not only because he was a Hollywood powerhouse, but to attract audiences to see Beloved. In my opinion, the acting was outstanding and it’s a movie I’ll revisit.

  183. In 2011, why should black movie-goers be grateful and not angry that an actress of Viola Davis’ caliber is only now getting a major role?

    Why has a mainstream civil rights drama without a white protagonist never green-lighted?

  184. In 2011, why should black movie-goers be grateful and not angry that an actress of Viola Davis’ caliber is only now getting a major role?

    Why has a mainstream civil rights drama without a white protagonist never green-lighted?

  185. @Whitney: Between yesterday and today, I chanced to talk with people who gave me a better understanding of why The Help is doing so well in the black community, given the black voices raised in criticism against it. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer have been extremely effective spokeswomen for The Help (indeed, how could they not be?). Their messages to black media, including blogs, were more nuanced, frank and had a different spin than the ones to mainstream media.

    People want to see ourselves represented on the screen – it’s why Tyler Perry’s pictures are so popular, go to Ice Cube’s movies, etc. The bar has been set so low – they’re tired of black male comedians in drag (not that there’s no place for those kind of movies) – we’re hungry for a movie of higher quality and talent. People see Aibilene and Minny as heroines, and they ARE heroines but how are they portrayed (magical Negroes), are they really given equal time/space/focus as Skeeter? Where are the scenes of all the maids, their families and children? Didn’t they have lives and an existence outside and independent of their employers? Didn’t they have interior lives?

    It seems that in the joy of having the dignified Viola Davis and spirited Octavia Spencer as co-leads (some would say Best Actress nominee, others Best Supporting would be more realistic given awards politics) in a quality film, the black community is swallowing a sugar-coated poison pill by choice.

    (sorry, please excuse all caps, I copied this from my Facebook wall and didn’t want to re-type it) IRONY!!! = WHITE AUTHOR STEALS REAL BLACK MAID’S STORY and MAKES MILLIONS + FILM DIRECTED BY WHITE MAN + MAIN HEROINE IS WHITE GIRL + MORE MONEY FOR EVERYONE except the original maid on which everything is based. More irony = black people giving their hard earned money to individuals/industries that steals their stories, appropriates their culture, doesn’t employ them and devalues them.

    I also suspect that Davis and Spencer are VERY likely paid less than Stone, Howard, Chastain, Spacek, Janney etc.

    The silver lining = Hopefully The Help will initiate/provoke eye-opening discussion/dialogue – the more the better. Some people in the black community (hopefully whites too) will watch the astounding PBS documentary series Eyes on the Prize, and documentaries like Spike Lee’s Four Little Girls which will remind us all that the Civil Rights Struggle wasn’t “The Real Wives of Jackson, MS, circa 1960s.”

  186. @Whitney: Between yesterday and today, I chanced to talk with people who gave me a better understanding of why The Help is doing so well in the black community, given the black voices raised in criticism against it. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer have been extremely effective spokeswomen for The Help (indeed, how could they not be?). Their messages to black media, including blogs, were more nuanced, frank and had a different spin than the ones to mainstream media.

    People want to see ourselves represented on the screen – it’s why Tyler Perry’s pictures are so popular, go to Ice Cube’s movies, etc. The bar has been set so low – they’re tired of black male comedians in drag (not that there’s no place for those kind of movies) – we’re hungry for a movie of higher quality and talent. People see Aibilene and Minny as heroines, and they ARE heroines but how are they portrayed (magical Negroes), are they really given equal time/space/focus as Skeeter? Where are the scenes of all the maids, their families and children? Didn’t they have lives and an existence outside and independent of their employers? Didn’t they have interior lives?

    It seems that in the joy of having the dignified Viola Davis and spirited Octavia Spencer as co-leads (some would say Best Actress nominee, others Best Supporting would be more realistic given awards politics) in a quality film, the black community is swallowing a sugar-coated poison pill by choice.

    (sorry, please excuse all caps, I copied this from my Facebook wall and didn’t want to re-type it) IRONY!!! = WHITE AUTHOR STEALS REAL BLACK MAID’S STORY and MAKES MILLIONS + FILM DIRECTED BY WHITE MAN + MAIN HEROINE IS WHITE GIRL + MORE MONEY FOR EVERYONE except the original maid on which everything is based. More irony = black people giving their hard earned money to individuals/industries that steals their stories, appropriates their culture, doesn’t employ them and devalues them.

    I also suspect that Davis and Spencer are VERY likely paid less than Stone, Howard, Chastain, Spacek, Janney etc.

    The silver lining = Hopefully The Help will initiate/provoke eye-opening discussion/dialogue – the more the better. Some people in the black community (hopefully whites too) will watch the astounding PBS documentary series Eyes on the Prize, and documentaries like Spike Lee’s Four Little Girls which will remind us all that the Civil Rights Struggle wasn’t “The Real Wives of Jackson, MS, circa 1960s.”

  187. @Graace: Amen!!!

    Melissa Harris Perry, Tulane University professor and MSNBC film critic said, “It’s ahistorical and deeply troubling to make the suffering of these laborers a backdrop for a happy story. But there was a silver lining to the film, and Harris Perry concluded on a good note: actress Viola Davis’s buzz was well-earned. “What kills me,” she concluded, “is that in 2011 Viola Davis is reduced to playing a maid.”

  188. @Graace: Amen!!!

    Melissa Harris Perry, Tulane University professor and MSNBC film critic said, “It’s ahistorical and deeply troubling to make the suffering of these laborers a backdrop for a happy story. But there was a silver lining to the film, and Harris Perry concluded on a good note: actress Viola Davis’s buzz was well-earned. “What kills me,” she concluded, “is that in 2011 Viola Davis is reduced to playing a maid.”

  189. I am from Mississippi and seen the film on a late Friday screening since the showings were sold out for 7:00 and 7:55 showings. I personally thought it was too long and a direct rip off of ” A Long Walk Home ” with Whoopi Goldberg and Sissy Spacek and Robert Altman’s ” Cookie’s Fortune” to some degree and even
    “Julie and Julia” . Though Davis performance was good as well as other cast members, I thought the film was 25 minutes too long.

  190. I am from Mississippi and seen the film on a late Friday screening since the showings were sold out for 7:00 and 7:55 showings. I personally thought it was too long and a direct rip off of ” A Long Walk Home ” with Whoopi Goldberg and Sissy Spacek and Robert Altman’s ” Cookie’s Fortune” to some degree and even
    “Julie and Julia” . Though Davis performance was good as well as other cast members, I thought the film was 25 minutes too long.

  191. April Thompson

    I don’t think “The Help” is racist. But I am annoyed that the only way a civil rights drama can get the green-light in Hollywood, is if it has a white protagonist.

  192. April Thompson

    I don’t think “The Help” is racist. But I am annoyed that the only way a civil rights drama can get the green-light in Hollywood, is if it has a white protagonist.

  193. April, Ligaya — and everybody else who’s keeping this discussion rolling:
    Here’s an articulate summing up of some of these issues by the very smart Matt Zoller Seitz.

  194. April, Ligaya — and everybody else who’s keeping this discussion rolling:
    Here’s an articulate summing up of some of these issues by the very smart Matt Zoller Seitz.

  195. LOL, Ryan, I’ve been on a work-enforced embargo on everything non–work-related since my last post. – including reading anything on The Help, let alone any of the numerous posts on none-Help topics. I’m in the unusual position of having a broken laptop and having to borrow time on others’ infrequently. Plus I don’t know how to work this computer properly.

    My sincerest apologies ahead of time for quoting my comments from another blog but I don’t have the luxury to reframe my comments.

    I will read others’ comments and suggested articles when I have time.

  196. LOL, Ryan, I’ve been on a work-enforced embargo on everything non–work-related since my last post. – including reading anything on The Help, let alone any of the numerous posts on none-Help topics. I’m in the unusual position of having a broken laptop and having to borrow time on others’ infrequently. Plus I don’t know how to work this computer properly.

    My sincerest apologies ahead of time for quoting my comments from another blog but I don’t have the luxury to reframe my comments.

    I will read others’ comments and suggested articles when I have time.

  197. At this time I am going to do my breakfast, later than having my breakfast coming over again to read further
    news.

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